The "Mastery" Plan for High School Graduation

Beginning with the 2011 school year, some Connecticut high school students may be eligible to graduate after two years. A new education plan, funded in part by the Melinda and Bill Gate Foundation, and organized by the National Center on Education and the Economy, will debut in eight states. According to a recent article in the New York Times, the goal of the program is to insure, “that students have mastered a set of basic requirements,” thus reducing the numbers of high school graduates who need remedial courses when they enroll in college. The “board exams” will model similar examinations that exist in high achieving countries like Singapore and Finland. They will include English, math, science, and history.
Students who pass the exam can choose to graduate and move on to a community college after tenth grade. Those who wish to enroll in selective colleges may continue to take college preparatory courses throughout their last two years of high school.
Connecticut is one of only eight states to pilot this program. The others include Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. The participating states will apply for federal stimulus aid to defray the cost of the pilot program. Start-up costs for each student are estimated at $500 for materials and tests and to train teachers. Each state pledges to begin the program in ten to twenty schools. The criteria for the pilot schools have yet to be determined.
Rather than the customary “seat time,” which requires that students collect a number of credit before graduation, this program will focus on mastery of content for graduation. The commission members hope that students who demonstrate mastery of basic skills can move into community colleges without needing remedial assistance.

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