All incoming freshman to St. Charles Parish Public Schools have the option to graduate within three years as juniors.
Rachel Allemand, assistant superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment, said while all students have the opportunity to zoom through their required high school courses and graduate early, it takes a lot of planning and hard work.
“What it would entail would be starting in the freshman year they would have to tell the counselor that is one of their goals,” she said.
In order to take advantage of the opportunity to complete their high school degree in three years instead of four, students have to take only required courses.
The total number of required core courses, meaning math, science, English and others that make up the core of a student’s education, is 24 throughout a student’s high school career. With the opportunity to earn eight credits per year, students have to follow a rigorous academic schedule to graduate a year early.
“Over the years we’ve had a few that have graduated early and what it takes is very careful scheduling to get in all of the required courses in the three years,” Allemand said.
Unfortunately, the focus on getting those core courses out of the way does come at a cost to students who take this route. Those students won’t be able to take any electives and must sacrifice social activities as well athletic participation that would come in the final year of high school.
Allemand said there are plenty of other options for students who would like to get a jump on their life after school, but would still like to attend their senior year.
“High schools offer a lot of advanced placement classes so that kids can start earning college credit while they are still in high school. Then we have some students who are dually enrolled at the technical college,” she said.
In addition, the Satellite Center is only open to upperclassman and provides immersion learning in various disciplines where students can get hands-on experience as well as earn college credits.
“That also gives children the opportunity to take advanced courses, some of which are dual enrollment courses but not all of them. So that gives them some more background before they enter college,” Allemand said.
Part of the consideration on whether to pursue early graduation can be given in dollar amounts as well.
“If they are taking advanced placement classes in high school, the children get college credit at no cost to the parent if they make a 3, 4 or 5 on the AP exam. Most of the dual enrollment courses have no fee at all or if they do it is just a very small fee,” Allemand said. “For some parents it would actually save them money if the child doesn’t graduate early.”
Whatever path students choose to take, there are a variety of options that will help them once they leave the public school system.
“What we are trying to do is facilitate that transition from high school to college so that it is smooth and not a dramatic change for children so they have some experience of what it is like to take a college course, but still be in the environment of a high school,” Allemand said.
Allemand said if a student should choose the path to graduating early, they need to sit down and have discussion with their parents to make an informed decision.
“I think it is a very individual decision,” she said. “Part of what you need to look at is the student’s maturity. Obviously if they are going onto college a year earlier then they are going to be younger than a lot of their classmates in college.”