Two years ago I helped start a partnership program between our school district and our local community college - it is called the Early College Program. Incoming high school juniors leave the confines and comforts of their traditional high school to complete their education at the community college. They have the opportunity to gain both their high school diploma and their AA degree. This is no easy task, and for many it is not an easy choice.
Please join me in congratulating the first graduating class of the Early College Program - the class of 2009! Out of 56 students who began the program in 2007, 36 graduated last week with their high school diploma and AA degree. I am very proud!
The traditional high school is fast disappearing - and in my opinion it deserves to. We've spent so much time and money holding schools accountable through state testing for the achievement of the lower 25%. We've ignored and neglected the other 75%. When people are ignored or neglected for a long time, they finally leave. Teens are looking for a way out - and dual enrollment (taking college courses that count as both high school and college credit) offers them one way.
This phenomenon is not new - in fact dual enrollment has been a viable option since the 1980's, but the number of students participating is increasing exponentially at this time. Most states make this opportunity available on some level, but it's not without risk. There is a down side.
Not every student who desires to dual enroll is ready for this shift in schedule, responsibility, and level of expectation. Some may be ready academically, but not emotionally - they're just not mature enough yet to be in a college classroom full time at 15 or 16. College professors also express reservation about welcoming high school students into their midst - they didn't get a PhD to teach high school - at least that is their perception.
Those who thrive are not easily distinguished from their college peers. Those who thrive feel liberated and finally free to be who they are away from the "drama" of high school.
So congratulations Danny, Akshay, Tiffany, Mariah, Kelly, Kelley, Ken, Gezime, Laura, Tea, Amy, Autumn, Colton, Ly, Joseph, Becca, Kristin, Nathan, Joanna, Janice, Chase, Amanda, and all those who graduated! I know you will go on to do amazing things! I will never forget you -