Kentucky is one of eight states joining a new program that would let qualifying students graduate from high school at the end of their sophomore years and enroll in college immediately.
Students first would have to pass standardized tests showing that they're ready to do college-level work.
Kentucky, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont will participate in the program, which will be operated through the National Center on Education and the Economy in Washington, D.C. A grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will pay for the pilot program, which was announced Wednesday in Washington.
It's scheduled to begin in the 2011-2012 school year, with 10 to 20 high schools participating in each of the eight states. It's not yet known which Kentucky schools might join the program, the state department of education said.
Marc Tucker, president of the National Center for Education and the Economy, said the effort ultimately would "prepare dramatically more students for college success, and greatly reduce the high number of students who now take remedial courses in college."
The program wouldn't be for everybody, but could appeal to young, high-achieving students who are bored with high school and want to move on, said Cindy Heine, associate executive director of Kentucky's Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. She noted that bills have been introduced in the current Kentucky legislative session that would allow early high school graduation.
"We've been concerned for many years about students who find high school to be not challenging enough or irrelevant for their future plans," Heine said. "This could be a good option, because they could move right on into really relevant material for future jobs or other opportunities."
Each state participating in the initiative would approve as many as five "board examination" programs, such as the the College Board's Advanced Placement program or the ACT's QualityCore.
High school students in those states could then take one of the exams at the end of 10th grade. Those who passed would receive a high school diploma, and could choose to enroll as full-time students in any two- or four-year, open-enrollment college in their state without having to take remedial courses, officials said.
Sophomores who passed the exams also could elect to stay in high school and take classes designed to prepare them for selective college enrollment later on.
The program would meet or exceed new Common Core Content Standards, which Kentucky recently adopted. It was the first state to do so.