College credit while in high school

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Like pumpkin-spice lattes during autumn, ways of getting college credit during high school (CCHS) are big business nowadays, whether one is looking at such tried-and-true vehicles as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate or fast-growing newcomers like dual credit, dual enrollment, early-college high schools and P-tech schools. As with any growth industry, however, all sorts of issues have arisen in this realm, important ones involving comparability, quality control, transferability of credit, equitable access, and program accountability.

To tackle these, the College Board convened a “working group” of eighteen individuals drawn from many parts of the CCHS galaxy and elsewhere in K–12 and postsecondary education, and that group’s new report is a welcome contribution to a complicated field.

Yes, the College Board has a large horse in this rodeo—the AP program being a major revenue source for them, as well as a long-standing symbol of educational rigor—but they were scrupulous in bringing diverse views together and seeking consensus where it could be found among oft-competing entities, strong-minded individuals, and rival approaches affecting millions of kids each year (although the dual-credit numbers are woefully out of date).

The result is eight sound guiding principles organized under four important questions about rigor, accountability, access, outcomes and transparency, plus useful compilations of definitions, background facts, and future research directions.

This realm is booming—and fast changing, and it’s complicated, as it intersects the K–12 and postsecondary factions of education and entwines with all manner of other issues, including personalization, academic standards, acceleration, giftedness, remediation, college costs, college access, college (and career) readiness and more, not least the fraught intersection of academic and career and technical education.

In sum, this little paper is balanced, thoughtful and informative on topics we need to take seriously.

Chester E. Finn, Jr.
Chester E. Finn, Jr. is a Distinguished Senior Fellow and President Emeritus of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.