After all we have had Rigor, Relationships; and Relevance, Testing; No Child Left Behind; Strategic Planning and Comprehensive School Improvement Plans; Testing, Charter, Vouchers, and Choice; advisories and literacy plans; and now College Readiness; the Common Core and possible national testing for college readiness. So what is the missing ingredient? It is structured, comprehensive alignment between high schools and colleges with dual enrollment for all high school students as the focus – not tests, not curriculum alignment, not “better” preparation at the high school level. Requiring all students to take college classes before high school graduation ensures a smoother transition to college and eliminates the summer drop off. Raised expectations and opportunities to take college classes with more rigorous content can be successful experiences for all teenagers when accompanied by extensive support systems. Our goal is NOT to provide young students with the opportunity to fail courses earlier than they would have if they had waited until their first year of college to take a college course. Therefore, there is considerably more pressure on both secondary school teachers and college faculty to communicate, identify common ground, and work together to better serve the students they share. College students usually struggle in private, but mandated academic support for dual enrolled high school students surfaces their struggles and provides just in time intervention.
High level institutional collaboration can result in more students taking college level classes when they are ready, some as early as the tenth grade, shrinking the time to college graduation and saving families and states money. Instead of investing in a new set of tests that align with the Common Core to measure college readiness, we should invest in high school-college collaborations that lead to increased dual enrollment for all students, offer professional development and provide opportunities for our existing faculties. Investing in our teachers and professors has the added advantage of taking the college readiness initiative to scale a lot quicker than writing and adopting new tests. We do not have to wait a decade for more students to achieve college readiness. Opening up dual enrollment to more students can achieve this goal in this decade. We already have the tools and capacity in the hands of the skilled college and high school faculties who have worked hard to ensure college success for MCNC students and schools.