High-achieving Texas high school students will have the opportunity to graduate up to a year ahead of schedule under a first of its kind program being piloted by The University of Texas at Austin and Texas AandM University.
The Early Readiness High School Graduation Option, established by the Texas Legislature in 2009, allows participating school districts to grant diplomas to students who are certified as "college ready" by the state's flagship research institutions, even if the students have not completed all of the credits typically required for high school graduation.
No other state has an early high school graduation option that is directly aligned with the expectations of its leading universities. Creating a pathway to college for these students will allow them to continue their academic progress and maximize knowledge retention.
"There is a small but very talented pool of high school students who have already earned a large number of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate credits, but still have a year to go to complete state graduation requirements," said Harrison Keller, vice provost for higher education policy and research at The University of Texas at Austin. "Over time we think this could develop into a broader strategy for universities to provide new pathways into higher education, and for identifying and recruiting our most competitive students."
The first diplomas using this option will be issued in spring 2013. Ten districts have been invited to participate in the initial pilot phase. Additional districts may elect to join the pilot by signing an agreement with UT Austin, which is administering the program on behalf of both universities.
Most of the approved assessments align with curricular options currently offered to advanced high school students, including Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate examinations. During the pilot year of the program, students also must take ACT's ENGAGE assessment, which measures "non-content" college readiness. The University of Texas at Austin will pay for the additional assessment.
Diplomas awarded under this option will be treated as recommended high school diplomas for other purposes, such as eligibility for enrollment in universities or for financial aid. This high school diploma option does not guarantee admission to The University of Texas at Austin, Texas AandM University, or to any other college or university or academic program, although it does signify that students have met a rigorous standard that is aligned with the placement standards of a leading flagship institution.
"We recognize that some exceptionally high-achieving 'college ready' students are being produced in our state. We want to work collectively to encourage them and, ideally, motivate them to continue their educational pursuits in Texas. These are some of the future leaders of our state in the coming years," said Pamela R. Matthews, vice provost for academic affairs at Texas AandM. "We are pleased to partner with UT Austin in making possible this opportunity and obviously hope our institutions will be attractive higher-education destinations for the students who qualify for this new program."
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