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Professional Opinion

Two K12 ideas for raising college readiness

Kentucky school district teams with university to offer more rigorous courses

As superintendent of the Franklin County Public Schools, I am always pleased when our programs successfully support our mission, which is “To prepare students for college and career readiness and to become contributing citizens.”

While we certainly cannot force our students to succeed in school or in life, we certainly can work to prepare them—to improve the odds, if you will—for success, regardless of their education and career choices.

Clearly, we recognize that not all kids are destined for college: We still need soldiers, firefighters, welders, auto technicians, carpenters and others in similarly important careers that may not require a college degree.

At the same time, many of our students plan to pursue careers that do require a college degree and we need to do everything in our power to help them succeed. Regardless of the path our graduates take to their careers, our educational programs seek to address the needs of both groups.

With that said, I want to use this space to discuss two programs that are geared specifically to college-bound students.

The first is a dual-credit initiative that allows high school students to simultaneously earn credit toward their high school diploma and a college degree. The second is a program that we call the “Advanced STEM Pathway,” which may be the first of its kind in Kentucky.

Dual-credit discounts

Research shows that students who take college-level courses during high school are more likely to graduate from college with a four-year degree. Therefore, anything we can do to encourage our students to take such courses will help them succeed in college.

This year, a record number of Franklin County students (a total of 202, or twice as many as last year) are taking college-level courses, thanks in part to funding provided by the office of Gov. Matt Bevin.

The state pays a deeply discounted rate for any high school student to take up to three college courses during their four years of high school. Students who choose to take more than three college courses must pay for them, but also at a deeply discounted rate.

The courses are typically taught at a high school, by high school teachers using the college curriculum with oversight from the sponsoring university.

While most Franklin County students take these courses under the auspices of Kentucky State University, several take online courses through other universities, including Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State and Murray State.

This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to take rigorous courses in areas that interest them, and it’s a great way to kick-start their college careers.

Doubling the degrees

Our new Advanced STEM Pathway, an innovative partnership between the district and Kentucky State University, allows students who have successfully completed high school algebra in the eighth grade to take college-level courses during their freshman year of high school.

The program is in its first year, but those who complete it are likely to finish high school with both a high school diploma and an associates degree in liberal arts with an emphasis in mathematics and science.

This program is similar to residential programs offered by some universities, but our students live at home rather than on a campus. They report to their high school each morning and then go to Kentucky State for classes.

The traditional dual-credit program and our Advanced STEM Pathway both offer courses that are more rigorous than typical high school classes. They are aimed at challenging these highly motivated and high-achieving students while providing them with more opportunities and options.

Again, the goal is to better prepare them for success in college and whatever path they take toward success in life. The Franklin County Public Schools remain committed to providing opportunities like these that truly put our kids first.

Chrissy Jones is superintendent of the Franklin County Public Schools. She can be reached at chrissy.jones@franklin.kyschools.us