Full Speed Ahead: Widening the Pathway to College and Career Success

February 24th, 2011 by Comments Off on Full Speed Ahead: Widening the Pathway to College and Career Success

Issue Analysis

Full Speed Ahead:  Widening the Pathway to College and Career Success

By Dean Alford


The Move On When Ready concept was designed around high expectations for eleventh and twelfth grade students, engaging them in college or career pathways of personal interest. It provides for an early introduction to college-level work which will produce better student achievement results, higher graduation rates, and most importantly, help prepare Georgia students to be competitive in the global economy.


This proposal is designed to broaden the Move On When Ready Act by adding two additional components: mandatory COMPASS testing for all high school sophomores and the development of the College and Career Academy.


COMPASS is a computer adaptive test that measures skill and comprehension levels in the areas of reading, writing and mathematics to determine readiness for college-level courses in these areas. By obtaining the required COMPASS cut-scores, students are deemed ready for college curriculum. Scoring below the required cut-score on a given test suggests that a student may lack prerequisite knowledge or skill needed to be successful at the college level.


The proposed College and Career Academy (CCA) is used to provide Dual Credit program and course delivery to high school students – on the high school campus. The College and Career Academy is based on the “school within a school” career academy model. The career academy model is a well defined structure within a larger comprehensive high school reflecting its status as a small learning community.



A major component of the proposal will be the mandatory COMPASS testing of all sophomores during January and February of the tenth grade. The COMPASS test is designed to quickly evaluate a student’s college preparatory skill levels in reading, writing and math. It helps college administrators place students in appropriate courses and connects students with the resources they need to achieve academic success. The test results will be mailed to parents along with an explanation of program and course options that are available to the student. 

  • The test results will indicate whether or not the student is ready for college level coursework. 

  • The test report will include information designed to inform parents of all available program and course offerings that the student is eligible to receive. This may include programs such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, transfer to one of the units of the Technical College System of Georgia or the University System of Georgia or participation in the College and Career Academy if their high school offers the program.

The cost to administer the COMPASS battery of tests is about $1.21 per unit. Generally, the Reading, Writing, Pre-Algebra and Algebra portions of the test are administered, a total of 3.4 units, at a cost of roughly $4.10 per student. If all of Georgia’s public tenth graders (125,000) took the COMPASS tests, it would cost roughly $512,500 per year for test materials. This increased testing activity would impact college testing personnel and additional funds would be needed to meet testing demand.  At a high school with 500 tenth graders, the cost of test materials would be roughly $2,050 per year. The State of Georgia would provide funding to cover the expense for high school students taking or re-taking the COMPASS tests. It usually takes a high school student about 2 hours to complete all 4 tests. For students that do not test college-ready, additional COMPASS diagnostic tests can be given to identify areas that need strengthening. 


This minimal expense will help identify those students that are college ready and those that need additional support. Early identification of academic shortfalls gives time for intervention, which ultimately will improve the quality of high school graduates entering college or the workforce.  Remediation needs to happen while the student is in high school. After graduation, the cost to remediate at the postsecondary level goes up and negatively impacts state funding as well as the HOPE Scholarship and Grant programs.


College and Career Academy

The College and Career Academy is based on the “school within a school” career academy model. The career academy model is a well defined structure within a larger comprehensive high school reflecting its status as a small learning community. The CCA will be a contractual partnership, managed by Memorandum of Understanding, between the high school and the technical college or other public college or university. The CCA can better serve individual student needs through the various dual credit paths, such as traditional Dual Enrollment, Early College, or Move On When Ready. In addition to traditional classroom instruction, the academy provides access to e-learning opportunities and experiences that would not otherwise be available. By design, the CCA should have flexibility similar to schools operating under the IE2 or Charter school models.


Any eleventh or twelfth grade student that has completed the COMPASS test and is determined to be college-ready is eligible to participate in a dual credit program. Enrollment in a dual credit program allows a student to earn college-level credit toward a postsecondary credential while still in high school. The credit also counts toward the student’s high school graduation requirements. The College and Career Academy and high school will determine which dual credit options to offer. Parents will be informed of the College and Career Academy opportunities after their student completes the COMPASS test in tenth grade.


Funding for the CCA operation will be contractual, based on the number of instructors and courses taught – paid for by the high school’s Quality Basic Education (QBE) and local funds. Depending on the type of dual credit program, tuition may be covered by HOPE Grant or Scholarship.


College and Career Academy Benefits


Benefits for High School Students

  • The opportunity to earn dual high school and college credit for courses.

  • Access to college-level instructors and, when needed, college laboratories and facilities

  • Potential for online and e-learning access to expanded instruction available to college students

  • Ability to remain in their home high school for extra-curricular activities

  • College credit for students that does not count toward the HOPE credit hour cap (190 hour cap for HOPE scholarships or 95 hour cap for HOPE grants

  • A significant head start on college credits to finish college earlier at a significantly reduced cost to parents and students

Benefits for High School Administrations

  • Increased ability of colleges to access hard to find in-field teachers for higher level courses

  • Embedding of academic rigor into technical, hands-on, relevant coursework that can meet both academic standards and technical standards for both high school and college credit

  • Cost of dual credit is for the negotiated cost of the individual instructor for the number of courses provided by the college – the high school retains a significant portion of the QBE and local funds to assist in dealing with diminishing revenues

  • The high school will not be required to retain a full-time teacher for those FTEs that are enrolled in this dual credit college and career academy

  • The college will be able to provide the instructor at lower cost to high school because of offset for tuition that is HOPE eligible

Benefits for Colleges

  • Increased opportunity for student enrollment and access to potential students that would  continue college after high school graduation

  • Support from MOU contract to support salaries for instructors in the College and Career Academy

  • Although these dual credit students will not earn postsecondary FTE formula funds, the cost of instructor will be covered by contract and tuition collected.

  • A presence on high school campuses and the ability to raise the level of understanding of the value of postsecondary education and to expose high school students to optional careers and to relevant education

  • Expansion of campus locations without high cost construction – sharing of state facilities for the benefit of students

Benefits for Georgia and Its’ Workforce

  • Increased high school graduation rates for dual credit students

  • Increased “college-going” rates for Georgia high school graduates

  • Faster college completion rates and less remediation for entering college freshmen

  • High school graduates that are better prepared for college and the workforce

  • Less wasted time for students in the 11th and 12th grades in high school

  • Students will have the opportunity to “Move on When Ready”

  • Financial savings to state for not paying for similar courses twice


Dean Alford, a former member of the state Board of Education and current chairman of the State Board that oversees the Technical College System of Georgia, wrote this commentary for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. The Foundation is an independent think tank that proposes practical, market-oriented approaches to public policy to improve the lives of Georgians. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before the U.S. Congress or the Georgia Legislature.

© Georgia Public Policy Foundation (Feb. 25, 2011). Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and his affiliations are cited

The Foundation always tells the truth.

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