Lowell Matthews, Jr., is the Director of College and Career Pathways for ExcelinEd.
Last month was the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission to land on the moon—a mission that became known as “a successful failure.” As you may remember, the mission failed when an explosion in one of the oxygen tanks caused a series of cascading problems that threatened the safety of the astronauts. NASA had to reinvent procedures and rethink and use of parts beyond their original purpose, all in a pressure-filled time period and while astronauts faced rapidly deteriorating conditions in space. This successful failure became a case study in ingenuity.
Similarly, COVID-19 represents an explosion of sorts in our education system. The crisis has affected the way schools, teachers, parents and students interact and learn. This is especially acute for high school students who will shortly enter a world of financially troubled colleges and universities and a workforce with few or no jobs. As families struggle with job security or job loss, the prospect of affording postsecondary education is daunting.
Parents and students will need to take advantage of opportunities in high school to prepare for college-level expectations and to earn valuable college credit. The earned credit from opportunities like Advanced Placement, Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education, College Level Examination Program, dual credit, early college high school and International Baccalaureate could reduce time to a postsecondary credential for students and make college more affordable for families. To many students, these opportunities are out of reach or do not clearly fit into their career interests and pathways. But now every credit and learning opportunity must count—more than ever before.
As governors and state leaders look to shore up learning through funding provided under the federal CARES Act for All Americans, they should resist the temptation to merely plug additional fingers into the holes in the education dike. Instead, leaders need to consider addressing the core issues—quality, equity, access and sustainable funding—that turn these college acceleration opportunities into valuable knowledge, skills and college credits for our students.
The commonsense solutions, entitled “non-negotiables” below, will go a long way to making every learning opportunity and credit in advanced coursework count. For more on these non-negotiables, check our new playbook for policymakers Accelerating Students from High School to College and Careers.
Schools notify students and their parents of the credit transferability for each college acceleration option before students enroll.