2010 February 17 Wednesday
Standard Tests In 8 States For Early High School Graduation

This is a step in the right direction.

Dozens of public high schools in eight states will introduce a program next year allowing 10th graders who pass a battery of tests to get a diploma two years early and immediately enroll in community college.

But really smart kids might already know enough to pass the battery of tests at the end of 8th or 9th grade. Also, taking the tests earlier would give students a measure of what they most need to study.

If a student fails at the end of 10th grade then a repeat attempt is allowed a year later.

Students who pass but aspire to attend a selective college may continue with college preparatory courses in their junior and senior years, organizers of the new effort said. Students who fail the 10th-grade tests, known as board exams, can try again at the end of their 11th and 12th grades. The tests would cover not only English and math but also subjects like science and history.

This once-a-year shot at early graduation is too long a time interval between tries. Students should be able to take trial tests online any time of the day or night all year around. That way students can track their own progress in real time. This will give them faster feedback and therefore greater incentive to try to improve their scores.

A student who fails at the end of 10th grade ought to be able to spend all summer learning and then take another official stab at early graduation before starting 11th grade. Quarterly tests would be even better.

The idea that the tests should be administered at the end of the school year is based on the assumption that kids should learn from professional teachers in bricks-and-mortar buildings. What's needed are online lectures and course material for high school subjects. Let the more motivated kids learn at any hour of the night or day 365 days of the year. Let them create their own structure for learning.

Accelerated online learning has the potential to save parents and students enormous amounts of money and to enable young people to avoid starting out their work lives burdened with heavy debts that take many years to pay off. Growing public discontent with high college costs can be addressed by automation and accelerated education.

Online learning and tests for college credit can help avoid the nightmare of big college debts. One medical doctor has loans that'll take until she's at least 70 years old to pay off.

When Michelle Bisutti, a 41-year-old family practitioner in Columbus, Ohio, finished medical school in 2003, her student-loan debt amounted to roughly $250,000. Since then, it has ballooned to $555,000.

It is the result of her deferring loan payments while she completed her residency, default charges and relentlessly compounding interest rates. Among the charges: a single $53,870 fee for when her loan was turned over to a collection agency.

"Maybe half of it was my fault because I didn't look at the fine print," Dr. Bisutti says. "But this is just outrageous now."

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2010 February 17 10:08 PM  Education

Clarium said at February 17, 2010 11:00 PM:

This would increase the disparity between whites and low-achieving ethnic groups.

Mthson said at February 17, 2010 11:04 PM:

Why do kids need to go to high school anyway? It's like free money/time to go straight to online classes at a community college and then transfer to a university for the last ~2 years.

If you're really ambitious, you can hire a low-cost tutor overseas to do much of your classwork for the stupid classes.

not anon or anonymous said at February 18, 2010 11:06 AM:

What do these 'standard tests' provide that a GED does not? AFAIK, the GED is not limited to a single test at the end of the schol year.

Randall Parker said at February 19, 2010 7:09 PM:

not anon or anonymous,

My impression is these tests are tougher.


I'm with you. I'd instead like to see 14 and 15 year olds taking tests that earn them college credits.


Are you complaining?

tehag said at February 20, 2010 3:54 AM:

The language, in the WSJ of all places, about 'ballooning' and 'relentlessly compounding' shows math illiteracy. I suppose the reporter and doctor to be in favor of compounding interest in their savings accounts but not in their loans? A reporter this innumerate should be at the NY Times. A doctor this innumerate should have her license pulled.

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