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Why advanced coursework in high school matters for success in college


• ExcelinEd

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The goal of high school isn’t just to get students out the door with a diploma in their hand; rather it is to prepare our youngest citizens for the challenges and opportunities they will face after high school.

Yesterday, ExcelinEd and the Arizona Chamber Foundation released a joint policy brief which finds that completing rigorous coursework in high school is one of the best predictors of students’ success in college. Unfortunately, too few of Arizona’s high-schoolers, especially those in low-income and rural areas, have access to advanced courses like those in the Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge International curricula.

The paper, “Expanding Access to Advanced Coursework in Arizona High Schools,” identifies a number of barriers to increasing the availability of advanced courses for students, including a lack of qualified teachers and a failure to identify the high school students could succeed in more challenging courses.

“There are several practical steps that schools and districts can take to increase their students’ exposure to the types of classes that will get them ready for college,” Arizona Chamber Foundation Executive Director Katie Fischer explained in a press release. “Most of the options our paper examines can be done with little to no additional funding and don’t require any action by the state Legislature. They do, however, require education leaders to recognize the importance of advanced coursework and to make the decision that increasing students’ participation rates in advanced coursework is something worth pursuing with real energy.”

The paper’s recommendations include offering financial bonuses to teachers for each of their students who receives a qualifying score on an end-of course exam, using federal grant dollars to cover the bulk of students’ exam costs, and factoring a school’s rate of preparing students for college and career—as evidenced by advanced course exam passage rates or the number of students receiving a professional credential—into the school’s rating in the state’s accountability system.

ExcelinEd’s Dr. Matthew Ladner added, “By rewarding college credit by exam, Arizona high schools can make money the old-fashioned way: by earning it. Providing greater opportunities to students to earn college credit at disadvantaged schools can help break down stereotypes about whether students are ‘college material’ and move us toward a better educated, brighter future.”

Find the Arizona Chamber Foundation’s original press release here.


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