On January 27, 2016, Governor Larry Hogan announced the Maryland Early Graduation Scholarship Program. Designed for high-achieving students who complete high school in three years or less, eligible students would receive a one-time scholarship of up to $6,000 for tuition and expenses at any approved postsecondary educational institution in Maryland.
According to a press release by that accompanied his signing the executive order that created the program, Governor Hogan, a Republican, said that “The best and most important part of this program is that it makes college more affordable and more accessible for Maryland students and families,” adding that “It’s also a smart use of tax dollars. By encouraging high-achieving students to complete high school a year early, the state can reallocate what would have been spent on a student’s last year of public high school, and help with the first year of college instead.”
However, The Washington Post reported that educators and Democratic legislative leaders questioned whether the program is really in the best interest of all students. According to the Post, in Maryland’s largest school district, school board member Patricia O’Neill had said that “a fourth year of high school is important, both for academics and student maturity.” The newspaper quotes the board member of insisting that she didn’t “see the rush,” and wanted “kids well prepared for college and ¬well prepared if they are choosing to go into the world of work and career.” For good measure, O’Neill had also “noted that students who may be bored with the typical high school curriculum have the option of taking rigorous Advanced Placement courses or in many cases becoming dually enrolled in colleges as they progress through senior year.”
Some parents find O’Neill’s opposition particularly hard to understand when she advocates that students should experience a college level education by taking Advanced Placement courses and through dual enrollment. If a student is educationally well-prepared, and is socially and emotionally suited for a college education, why not afford the student the opportunity of a real college experience? Furthermore, there is little evidence in the form of peer reviewed research that spending a fourth year in high school provides any extra preparation for college.
Back in 2010 The Washington Post reported that the district released data tracking students who graduated from high school from 2001 to 2004. According to the Post, district figures show that “just 47 percent of the 34,000 tracked graduates received bachelor’s degrees within six years of high school.” That same year, this column pointed out that the district identified an average of about 40% of its second graders as performing above the level of the curriculum, at least in math and English. When it comes to education, the district’s own figures show, it fails to make the grade. Consequently, some argue that it has little authority or justification to oppose educational opportunities for students who need a rigorous education.