#AskExcelinEd: How can school leaders improve college acceleration opportunities for students? Part 1


You’ve heard us talk about how college acceleration opportunities can literally change lives. These programs give students the chance to earn college credit—and prove to themselves that they can earn college credit—while they are still in high school. Consequently, participating students are more likely to graduate high school, go on to college and complete college degrees on time.

To learn more about college acceleration in action, we talked to school leaders from five different states. These leaders are successfully reaching thousands of students through Advanced Placement (AP), Cambridge AICE, College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), dual enrollment, early college high schools and International Baccalaureate (IB).

We wanted to know what strategies these leaders use—their secret sauce, if you will—to make their schools’ programs so extraordinarily beneficial for all students, especially those who have been traditionally underserved.

We found what we were looking for (and more!) and published these finding in our newest policy playbook, College Acceleration in Action: Five School Perspectives. In this playbook, we explore the two distinct trends the school leader interviews revealed:

Today, we’re going to explore the first trend and share just what successful school leaders are spending their time and energy on.

Successful School Leaders Focus on What They Can Control

The school leaders we interviewed focused mostly on the areas they can control to grow their successful college acceleration programs, often at little or no cost to the school or school district. We’ve turned their insight into the following four recommendations for school leaders seeking to grow their college acceleration programs.

1. Focus on student advisement.

Notify all students of college acceleration opportunities. Notification goes far beyond sending a letter/ email or a school announcement. This means college acceleration recruitment nights, steering students to these opportunities at registration, showcasing what students do in these courses as well as using administrators, teachers and advisors to sell the value of college acceleration opportunities.

Provide college and career advisement to alumni. Advisement traditionally includes college and career pathway advice with college acceleration opportunities. However, school leaders can do more by engaging with students who have already graduated and are in their first year of college to provide pathway advice and support, especially with first-generation college students.

2. Expand the measures by which students qualify for and are identified as capable of succeeding in college acceleration opportunities.

School leaders need to expand student eligibility metrics for college acceleration beyond a single metric like standardized test scores. In some cases, the student eligibility requirements may be state mandated. In other cases, the school leader may need to negotiate with colleges and universities to change the student eligibility requirements. Regardless, school leaders can use the metrics for both student eligibility and student identification to encourage students to attempt college acceleration coursework. These metrics could include: overall GPA; related-subject grades; teacher recommendations; enrollment and success in advanced coursework (including honors courses that do not bestow college credit); and demonstration of student work.

3. Integrate college acceleration and career pathways.

The future workforce landscape is changing. Job applicants are expected to bring skills that are learned from both college and career pathways. School leaders can integrate college acceleration courses into career pathways to encourage traditional college-prep students to take CTE courses and, conversely, use career pathways to encourage CTE students to take college-credit bearing courses.

4. Train educators to teach college acceleration opportunities.

School leaders should leverage the qualifications of the teachers they already have, take advantage of professional development opportunities like summer institutes and negotiate incentives for educators to begin teaching college acceleration courses. They should also investigate the school’s relationship with local postsecondary providers to determine an effective means of scaling up the teaching workforce to meet accreditation requirements for college acceleration courses like dual credit. A college or university may have a built-in incentive to help schools train up their teachers, as the students who take these college-level courses may be more likely to enroll in the college or university following high school graduation.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog!

Solution Areas:

College & Career Pathways


College Acceleration

About the Author

Lowell Matthews, Jr., is the Director of College and Career Pathways for ExcelinEd.

Solution Areas:

College & Career Pathways