Column: Educational opportunities: It’s complicated |

Column: Educational opportunities: It’s complicated

Editor’s note: Find a cited version of this column at

Have you ever asked a question and been given the answer, “It’s complicated”? Me too. It’s a frequently used phrase around the Colorado Department of Education.

Recently, I was having a conversation with constituents when the following question was raised: “What are we doing for our high-achieving students?” Well, it’s complicated.

In May 2009, the Colorado State Legislature passed House Bill 09-1319 and Senate Bill 09-285, the Concurrent Enrollment Programs Act. The concurrent enrollment program is defined as “the simultaneous enrollment of a qualified student in a local education provider (high school) and in one or more postsecondary courses, including academic or career and technical education courses, which may include course work related to apprenticeship programs or internship programs, at an institution of higher education.”

Basically, dual and concurrent enrollment are terms used interchangeably to describe college courses students take while in high school. They can be taught by qualified high school instructors or through an agreement with a local community or four-year college.

The 2009 bill also creates another program for students completing 12 post-secondary credit hours prior to the completion of 12th grade. The Accelerating Students through Concurrent Enrollment program provides qualifying high school students a fifth year of tuition-free college. At the end of the fifth year at their local education provider (high school), the student will receive their high school diploma.

AP, or Advanced Placement, is another way for students to take content-rich courses over a wide range of information. Currently, highly qualified teachers in some Colorado high schools offer 34 courses. Every May, AP examinations are administered to evaluate the skills learned in these courses. The tests are not mandatory; however, students taking the tests and performing well can earn college credit and advanced placement at many colleges.

Early college is also a chance for students to gain college credit. In this case, enrolled high school students have the opportunity to graduate with either an associate’s degree or 60 credit hours toward the completion of a postsecondary credential.

These are a few of the opportunities currently being offered in Colorado high schools. Of course there are also blended learning classes that allow for coursework helpful in attaining certifications and college credit.

At our August board meeting, the education department will give us an overview of postsecondary workforce readiness, and yes, it’s complicated.

Joyce Rankin is on the State Board of Education representing the 3rd Congressional District. She is also a legislative assistant for Rep. Bob Rankin.

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