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Pilot Program May Let Sophomores Graduate Early
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Sophomores in Connecticut could earn their high school diplomas early and enroll in community colleges under a new pilot program. The state is among 8 nationwide that were selected to work with the National Center for Education and the Economy or NCEE-a non profit focused on education reform.

Spokesman for state Department of Education, Tom Murphy says the NCEE launched the pilot with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He says additional funding - in the millions - will be needed to develop the program. He says one possible funding source are the federal Race to the Top grants.

"This is not going to happen over night. We have to select the districts, we have to look at state law to see if there are any changes in terms of minimum graduation requirements.  We have to do a great deal of professional development for faculty and adminstrators and we have to select the schools and also have to select the curricula and tests to demonstrate that students have acquired the necessary skills and knowlege."

Right now, the Department of Education is considering opening up the program to about 50 students each in 10 to 20 schools throughout Connecticut. Sophomores that pass certain tests could earn a diploma or certificate that would allow them to move onto higher education.

Murphy says the state is excited about the pilot program because it fits into its secondary school reform agenda.

"With this type of option, students can move onto community colleges, obviously save dollars, move onto higher education further or accelerate their careers.  But they also have the opportunity to stay in high school with the understanding that they've already achieved the requirements and now can focus on their interests and this could change high schools immensely."

Over the next 2 months, the state will identify participating high schools. The goal is to offer courses in 2012 and begin testing students by 2013.

For WNPR, I'm Lucy Nalpathanchil.