- The Mississippi Department of Education and the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning have formed a new partnership that will allow more students to gain automatic entry into one of the state’s eight public universities and will grant automatic credit for qualifying scores for Advanced Placement (AP) classes taken in high school, the Daily Journal reports.
- Beginning this school year, all students without significant disability will select one of the three diploma endorsements before starting 9th grade: a Career and Technical Endorsement designed to lead to direct employment or community college attendance; an Academic Endorsement requiring a 2.5 GPA, 26 Carnegie units and the meeting of community college readiness benchmarks on the ACT or SAT, or a Distinguished Academic Endorsement requiring a 3.0 GPA, 28 units, and the meeting of national college readiness benchmarks on the ACT or SAT. Attainment of either the second or third endorsement will provide automatic enrollment in state public universities beginning in 2022.
- The new partnership also means that, beginning in the fall of 2019, all Mississippi public universities will automatically award three hours of college credit for a score of three or higher on an AP exam. Scores of four or five on an exam could earn up to six hours college credit, depending on the subject.
Though high school graduation rates across the nation have increased in recent years, this progress has often come by redefining the terms of graduation rather than increasing the number of students prepared for life after high school. In fact, according to a recent study from the Center for American Progress, the high school graduation requirements in most states are not sufficient to allow for entry into their own state college system. Mississippi’s new plan, if successful, will provide students with the assurance that their high school diploma represents a pathway into college, if they qualify for the correct endorsement.
It makes sense for a state's high school graduation requirements to align with state public university entrance requirements. Several states are working on the issue. California recently implemented a controversial new accountability system that leaves some critics worried about how well students will be prepared for college. Other states have considered placing the state’s public schools and universities under one department to encourage streamlining the systems. But while smoothing the transition into college for in-state students is an important goal, officials also have to maintain the quality of their university systems in order to attract students from outside the state.
Mississippi’s new plan also includes automatic course credit for scores of three or higher on AP exams. This move comes at a time when AP courses are losing favor among many high schools because they are being devalued in the larger college market. However, AP courses do offer a more rigorous course of instruction that is more closely aligned with college level work and are good preparation even if the student doesn't earn a three or higher. But rigorous coursework in a few subjects is not always enough to guarantee college success. High schools also need to make sure programs are in place to help students be prepared to deal with stress and expectations of college life as well.