Writing for the Fordham Institute, Kalman R. Hettleman proposes a shortened high school experience to allow students to get a jump-start on postsecondary education. Excerpts from the piece appear below.
Michael J. Petrilli’s recent article “Half-Time High School may be just what students need“ is compelling. Yet proposals to cut school time in half in grades nine through twelve may be only half right. Why not eliminate altogether the senior year-and maybe the junior year, too-for students who can meet college- and career-readiness standards before reaching those grades?
More student choice is long overdue. Well before the Covid-19 crisis, there was slow but steady movement toward adapting high school to the realities of today’s teenagers. Too many spend most of their day, as Petrilli observes, “bored, zoned out, and only pretending to listen,” not to mention engaged in risky extracurricular behaviors.
In 2001, the National Commission on the High School Senior Year asked, “Why does everyone have to go to high school for four years? … If they can master the material in less time, why not let them move on?” As a policy brief from the Education Commission of the States noted, “Policymakers and school staff have long bemoaned the wasted senior year, in which many students, needing to complete few if any courses to fulfill high school graduation requirements, mentally (if not physically) check out of school.”
If given the choice and the chance, many middle and high school students will rise to the challenge and opportunity to accelerate their educational climb. In an influential article in 2007, noted psychologist Robert Epstein observed that “research has long shown that [teenagers] are actually superior to adults on tests of memory, intelligence, and perception.” High achievers aren’t the only students who can accelerate. Middling and struggling ones can speed up, too, if they get timely assistance along the way.
The policy trailblazer in this field is the National Center on Education and the Economy. Its landmark report in 2007, under the auspices of the bipartisan New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, called for a redesign of the public K-12 education pipeline to enable students to exit at the age of sixteen.