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Otter signs off on early graduation program (video)

Otter signs off on early graduation program (video)

Dustin Hurst
April 8, 2010
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April 8, 2010

Gov. Butch Otter has given the Idaho State Department of Education the green light in developing a program that will allow high school students to graduate early and receive a state-funded scholarship for doing so.

The program, known as the Mastery Advancement Placement Program, or MAPP, is the brainchild of Reps. Steve Thayn, R-Emmett, and Branden Durst, D-Boise.  The pair of lawmakers believe that through MAPP, the state will be able to innovate its way into savings for education. MAPP is a six-year pilot program and will only affect districts that apply to take part. Districts must apply for the program by Sept. 1, 2010, and the department will notify districts selected to participate by Dec. 31, 2010.

The program is a first-of-its-kind in Idaho and Thayn and Durst believe it will encourage students and families to become more involved in the education process.  Under the guidelines of the program, the department, in coordination with local school officials and teachers, is to develop exams that could be used to measure students’ aptitude.  For grades K-6, tests would be skill-based and students in grades 7-12 would face knowledge-based exams.  If students complete the exams successfully, they would be allowed to move to the next grade (for K-6 students), or to a higher course level (for grades 7-12).

If students move through work and exams quickly and graduate early, they would receive a portion of what the state would have paid to educate them their senior year in the form of a scholarship.  Thayn estimates the scholarship could be worth as much as $1,600 for each school year graduated early, though costs could vary from district to district.  Students would only be allowed to graduate up to three years early.

Following the legislative session, IdahoReporter.com interviewed Thayn about MAPP and the work he will do to develop program specifics.

Thayn said that he is in the processing of writing rules and guidelines of the program, which he expects to take a few weeks. Upon completion, he will submit the rules to the department, which will revise them into a finished product that will be used by districts to administer the program. Thayn is also working to recruit school districts and charter schools for the six-year program. Districts, if selected to participate, are expected to continue the program through its end.

Durst also spoke with IdahoReporter.com about the program and what it will take for students and families to succeed in it.

Those critical of the program have said that they worry about 16-year-olds graduating high school and leaving for college before they are socially ready. Both lawmakers said that the point of the program is not to enable teens to leave home early, but rather to allow those who participate in the program to take college classes in high schools, a program called concurrent enrollment, which is already being done at most high schools throughout the state.

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