Blurring the Line Between High School and Postsecondary Education

Colorado high school students can participate in a variety of programs, like concurrent enrollment, P-TECH, and ASCENT, in which they can earn postsecondary credit while still enrolled in high school. However, these programs can be costly to administer, reliant on the right postsecondary partner, and take significant administrative time to implement, making them inequitably accessed by many Colorado students.

Legislation sponsored by Reps. Julie McCluskie and Jennifer Bacon, will try to change that. HB22-1215 will create a taskforce focused on blurring the lines between high school, postsecondary, and workforce by designing and recommending policies to help expand early college programs and P-TECH schools and other opportunities for postsecondary credit and work-based learning in high school. In doing so, more students will be able to take advantage of these important programs that help them get a leg up on their futures.

In a hearing on April 13th, school leaders and students testified in support of this bill, highlighting the value it would bring to student outcomes:

In Elizabeth, we have begun to provide more concurrent enrollment choices, internship opportunities and giving students the chance to earn work-place certifications. Unfortunately, we are just scratching the surface, even with this good work. HB22-1215 would authorize a taskforce to have a statewide conversation about how we increase postsecondary opportunities for high school students here in Colorado.

Bret McClendon, Principal, Elizabeth High School

My school offers AP and concurrent enrollment classes and has an International Baccalaureate program and because it is part of the Cherry Creek School District, offers classes at the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus, which gives students access to job opportunities in their prospective fields. These programs have helped me and my classmates in preparing for college and understanding what we want for our future. They’re often taught like college classes, full of research papers, essays, allowing students to take paid internships and apprenticeships in the career areas they wish to pursue in the future, and even following through with them after they graduate. It has taught me more than just academic information, focusing on student leadership, time management, and building relationships. I’m lucky enough to go to a school that offers a variety of postsecondary opportunities. And, while I’ve been lucky, I have friends who don’t have these same opportunities.  Every student in Colorado should be able to access such opportunities, regardless of where they live and what school they go to, it shouldn’t be just a privilege.

Aya, student, Cherry Creek 

By examining successful programs, the task force could determine ways districts can implement a suite of programs–such as PTECH and work-based learning–and make it easier for districts to offer these opportunities in partnership with institutions of higher education and even neighboring districts like what we’re doing in Fremont County. I am hopeful this task force addresses the barriers we see to expanding student access–barriers such as seat time requirements, flexible scheduling, lack of funding for program management in PTECH, summer access to concurrent enrollment, and the idea that what gets measured gets done. It is our opinion the programs we’re talking about today are under-represented in the state’s current school performance framework process.

Bill Summers, Principal, Canon City High School 

High schools are very different than they were in the past. Our traditional methods of graduating students are being challenged by students, parents, and the business community.  Looking for ways to better match high school training with varying student and community needs, takes creative thinking and research that this task force can focus on. It’s important for high school students to have additional opportunities for postsecondary credit in high school.

Frank Reeves, Superintendent, East Grand School District

Strong support from students and school districts led this bill to pass the House Education Committee by a vote of 8-1. Stay tuned to the Colorado Succeeds team at @COSucceeds for more updates from the Capitol.

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