Rising college costs, increasing college debt, and the fact that many teenagers do not graduate from high school college-ready, puts college out-of-reach of more and more students. Add to that mix that 25 percent of U. S. students drop out before graduating high school and it seems as if higher education is becoming too exclusive for many students.High school student Stock Photos, Royalty Free High school student Images |  Depositphotos

While all aspects of education should be considered  tf games when trying to find ways to make college more attainable, a good place to begin is in the high school curriculum. Many parents will attest that the standard school curriculum does not work for many students. Teenagers report that they find no connection between what they are supposed to learn in the classroom and the real world. Such a connection is needed to motivate young people to succeed in school and the work world they will encounter.

So it is always encouraging to hear about an outstanding post-high school opportunity offered to students. For example, a program offered through the Poudre School District in Fort Collins, Colorado, resulted in six students receiving an offer for a paid internship with a local engineering firm. That firm will pay for tuition, fees, and books at the local community college for two years while the students work part time for the company. There is even the possibility that after two years, the company will reevaluate the students’ grades and work and offer more toward a four-year degree.

The Poudre School District program is known as Pace, or the Professional and Community Experience. High school juniors and seniors that sign up for Pace gain work skills and career experience with local businesses while attending school, and they attend weekly seminars during which they may visit businesses. It was at such a visit that the six students learned about the internship offered by the company.

While program such as Pace offer attractive alternatives for teenagers, not all schools offer such opportunities and even when they do, parents are sometimes unaware that such programs exist. It is important that parents evaluate their student’s abilities and readiness for college or for whatever that student will pursue beyond high school. If those teenagers are lacking skills, then parents need to find out exactly what alternative programs exist in their school districts. Ask your student’s school counselor about alternative programs. One good place to check is with community colleges in your area-many offer duel programs that allow high school students to work toward an associate’s degree while attending high school.

Alternatives to standard high school curriculum are popping up all over the United states. One example is New Tech schools, schools that offer “project-based learning, in which learning is contextual, creative, and shared. ” The use of technology is stressed and students collaborate on projects that require critical thinking and communication. There are 85 New Tech schools across the united states.

In school districts across the country that are large enough to have multiple schools, including charter schools, families usually are given the option of choosing a school. Early in the calendar year is the time that families are asked to make their options known. For parents with teenagers entering high school, searching for a school that best prepares their child for college is often a top priority.

What does a parent look for in a school that will well prepare their student for college success? The obvious first answer is to look for a school with rigorous academic opportunities. Most high schools today offer AP or Advanced Placement classes that offer students the opportunity to earn college credit while in high school, depending on that student’s scores on the AP exit exams.

AP is a curriculum sponsored by the College Board that standardizes its courses to be equivalent to college courses. While there are 34 possible AP courses, schools offer various ones based on each school’s needs, available teachers, student interest, and other factors.

Another rigorous curriculum is the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. It usually takes schools two to three years to qualify to become an IB school, therefore this program is not available in every school district. The IB program is divided into three sections: the primary years (grades KG through 5), the middle years (grades 5 through 10), and the IB diploma program (grades 11 and 12). Depending on the particular school’s rules, a student can enter the IB program at any grade except during the diploma program-that program requires the full two years.

Like AP classes, students who perform well on IB exit exams can earn college credit-in some cases, up to a year’s worth of credit. Unlike AP, IB requires its diploma students to choose higher level and standard level classes. The higher level classes take two years to complete, while the standard levels take one year. In addition, IB requires students to complete a certain number of service hours per school semester or year.

Besides these two programs, parents can search for charter or magnet schools that specialize in certain subjects or adhere to certain curriculum philosophies. Examples are science, math, and technology schools; performing arts schools; and schools that offer a “classic” curriculum. The definition of classic curriculum can vary from school to school.

For the student that wants to pursue college, taking challenging high school courses is the way to go. But it also is important that the student fulfill his or her other interests. When deciding on a high school, parents and students should consider the school’s opportunities for sports, academic clubs, social clubs, and community service. Most teenagers are not focused solely on academics, and their other interests can serve them well in getting into college and being successful once there.

It also is important to visit the schools you are considering-talk to the administrators, view the facilities, and ask questions. Be sure to include your teenager in the decision-making process. Remember she is the one that has to thrive in whatever high school environment she is placed, so considering her views and concerns should be as important as yours. Together, choose the school best suited to advance your teenager, then stay interested and involved in her school career to help further her success in high school and beyond.

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