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Proposal may give students early access to college
Bill would let qualifying juniors and seniors make their own choices
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Dual-enrolled students who are ready for college arguably are wasting some time in high school.

Now there is proposed legislation to change that.

Georgia Senate Bill 2 would give permission to local school boards to award high school diplomas to students who meet a new set of requirements. Simply put, it will allow students to evaluate how exactly they want to be educated.

“It’s certainly a huge step in the right direction that says a 23-unit college-preparatory tract does not meet the needs of every student we teach,” said Will Schofield, Hall County superintendent. “I’m very encouraged by what I see.”

These separate requirements for students include: being at least 16 years old; completing ninth- and 10th-grade core courses; receiving an acceptable score on the readiness assessment required by the postsecondary school or college; and completing either an associate degree program, a technical college degree program or any necessary postsecondary or technical education and training.

Rhonda Samples, Hall County’s career, technical and agricultural education coordinator, said many juniors and seniors in Hall County are dual-enrolled at Lanier Technical College. This legislation would mean students don’t have to dual enroll, and can focus on their postsecondary education earlier.

Dr. Ray Perren, president of Lanier Technical College, said the bill would give future students a chance to take their education into their own hands.

“I think that this would really allow students to kind of take a step back and assess what their education goals are,” Perren said. “If it’s in their lifestyle to leave high school after the 10th grade and begin their college work in earnest, it would allow them the opportunity to do that.”

The State Board of Education is working with the Technical College System of Georgia and the University System of Georgia to establish rules and regulations to allow students to still be eligible for any possible future education.

Schofield said university and technical college academic courses are aligned, which means a student who follows this new tract would not derail from the pathway to a four-year college, if desired.

“A 16-year-old who is completely disinterested in a college-prep tract but wants to get an advanced welding license is going to take college-level English and college-level mathematics,” Schofield said. “If they turn out to be 19 and say, ‘Changed my mind. I want to go to engineering school,’ I think they will have all the prerequisites to do so.”

Perren said the bill is a significant change from the Move On When Ready dual enrollment program, because it removes the necessity for continued enrollment in high school.

“In Move On When Ready, they are still technically in high school,” Perren explained. “They’re working toward their high school degree and college degree at the same time. But this is really another tool that we could use to encourage people to get their high school education and college education.”

Perren said he believes there is a large segment of students who would happily begin their college career early if given the option.

Schofield said there are some details in the language of the bill that he believes still need hammering out, but he’s in favor of its purpose.

State Superintendent Richard Woods announced his support for the legislation last week. He said the bill would direct more students “firmly on the path toward high school graduation and future success.”

“No ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is appropriate for education, and our students suffer when we attempt to impose one on them,” Woods said. “There must be options available.”

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