Getting Students Through High School.

Eight states will start allowing students to go to community college after they finish 10th grade, as long as they pass certain tests, reports the New York Times. The plan would allow students who want to stay to prepare for more selective schools in the 11th and 12th grades, and students who fail get opportunities to take the tests again.

At first, it seems like poorly performing students would fare badly, since study after study shows they enter high school with a deficit that began before they started kindergarten. The same panel that suggested this change also recommended starting children in school at age three, the Times reports.

But another study in 2006 showed that many students don't leave high school because they can't do the work. They leave because they're bored, and have family and other life-related issues that get in the way. Enabling the kids who have to leave to do so with a complete education might help a lot. It also acknowledges the fact that many kids don't want to stay in high school, and might not be that well served by those last two years of education, by making sure they meet certain education levels earlier rather than just letting them slide.

Kentucky’s commissioner of education, Terry Holliday, said that high school graduation requirements there have long been based on having students accumulate enough course credits to graduate.

“This would reform that,” Mr. Holliday said. “We’ve been tied to seat time for 100 years. This would allow an approach based on subject mastery — a system based around move-on-when-ready.”

The new system aims to provide students with a clear outline of what they need to study to succeed, said Phil Daro, a Berkeley-based consultant who is a member of an advisory committee for the effort.

Whether there's enough help for students who have trouble paying for community college is another matter. But at least this is an acknowledgment that dropping out of high school is a prevalent and serious problem.

-- Monica Potts

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