Achieving Vision 2030 Through Policy: Blurring the Lines

Blurring the Lines between High School and Postsecondary Course Credit Options 


In 2017, Colorado Succeeds launched the Vision 2030 framework – path for the future of education in Colorado where all of the states students are educated to their greatest potential and all businesses have the homegrown talent needed to succeed.  

Since then, we’ve been building on this framework by exploring how Vision 2030 translates into innovative policy supporting work-based learning and thus preparing agile learners for our future economy. Across our research and interviews from the field, several policy themes emerged as front runners, including optimizing high school and postsecondary credit.  

The lines between high school and postsecondary education are blurring as developing competencies and real-world, authentic experiences in a particular area of study are increasingly valued. Students need the chance to build more relevant, rigorous and transferable skills in high school. In Colorado, we are seeing examples of success, such as in the St. Vrain Valley School District and the Power Technical Early College in Colorado Springs. It is key then, that we set the right conditions for more innovative high school models to thrive. merritt_intern2019

In “Blurring the Lines” we explore short-term and long-term solutions that address the challenges that arise when districts venture outside of the traditional high school structure. Adding variety to the learning experience, through real-world applications allow students to develop and pursue their passions on the pathway to obtaining postsecondary credentials.  

We address policy that would allow the following: 

1) Enable Intermediaries to Award High School Course Credit for Work-based Learning

Current Colorado law only allows credit to be awarded for learning experiences within district schools, charter schools, and institutions of higher education. 

Providing a state entity with the authority to license nonprofit entities as credit issuing education service providers would grant intermediary nonprofit organizations the authority to award high school course credit for work-based learning experiences. This initiative would likely necessitate changes to Colorado’s funding structure. 

2) Postsecondary Credit for Work Experience 

Modeled after a 2017 military prior-learning bill that passed unanimously and established a framework for veterans’ prior learning to count for postsecondary credit, this legislation outlines a statewide plan to ensure multiple, high-quality pathways exist for earning postsecondary credit at institutions of higher education. 

Short-term Next Steps 

Legislation is expected to be reintroduced in the 2020 session that did not pass in 2019 that would allow members of the current workforce to receive postsecondary credit for demonstrating competencies gained through work-related experiences, work-based learning and apprenticeships.

3) Expand the Colorado Endorsed Diploma

In 2017, the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) and the Colorado State Board of Education passed a joint resolution to establish criteria for the Colorado endorsed diploma, which guarantees student acceptance into Colorado four-year institutions. 

As traditional methodologies of deriving course credit from seat-time are eroded and replaced with work-based learning opportunities, the Colorado endorsed diploma should reflect this shift. 

This diploma could be expanded by requiring high school students to complete a significant work-based learning experience — such as an apprenticeship — and a minimum number of college credits prior to graduation. Such a modification might offer an alternative pathway to college entrance for students who are college-ready but who do not perform well on standardized tests. 

4) Support Agile Learners by Updating Measures of Student Success

The state’s current accountability system includes a single score for postsecondaryand workforce readiness that masks important  programmatic and equity factors. 

Capandgown Programmatically it isn’t possible to tell whether students are encouraged to become ready for either college or career, or to attain both types of readiness.  And, in terms of equity, there is no way to know whether certain groups of students are encouraged to become college-ready while others are encouraged to become career-ready.  

To address this, one idea is to consider two layers of assessment.  

The first layer would be comprised of basic measures for the purpose of identifying fundamental quality or equity issues. The second layer would be unique measures based on local goals and could require at least one locally identified goal related to career exploration and preparation.  

The opportunity for students to earn high school credit and college credit for work-based learning experiences changes the entire paradigm for how we view school. To take a deeper dive, download the “Agility Explained” policy papers here. 

Vice President of Government Affairs
Colorado Succeeds