In two-thousand-one, Bard College in New York State and the New York City Board of Education created an unusual school for the city. It is called Bard High School Early College.
Now, two years later, Bard High School Early College has graduated its first students. Ninety-three young people received their high school diploma. But, at the same time, most also received a degree called an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences. This means they have also completed two years of college work.
Most of the students will enter four-year colleges in the fall. And most will be able to finish college early because they already have their Associate of Arts degree. This means they will also save money on their education.
The Bard program is designed for students ready to start college work at around the age of sixteen. Its creators believe that many young people are prepared for college by that age. They believe this is true of average as well as top students. They believe that four years of high school can waste time.
The best students in many traditional American high schools now study subjects taught on the college level. But every student at Bard is expected to do college-level work.
Bard High School Early College is the first of more than one-hundred similar high schools to be established over time. They will be created partly with money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and his wife will provide four-hundred-thousand dollars from their foundation to help start each school.
The goal is to set up small schools that will give students from poor families a better chance for a college education. Experts say many young people who attend huge high schools in big cities do not learn much. Many drop out of school.
Four of the new "high school early colleges" are to open this fall with Gates Foundation money. An educational group called the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation established the schools. Two are in New York City. The others are in New Orleans, Louisiana, and in Los Angeles, California. They will not award associate degrees. But they will support students doing college-level work.
This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.