Accelerated Learning Options

Accelerated Learning Options


Accelerated Learning Options: Dual Enrollment, AP, and IB

Offering high-quality, college-level learning experiences in high school can increase the academic quality and rigor of high school classes, lower the need for postsecondary remediation, reduce the high school dropout rate, reduce student costs of attending postsecondary institutions, and prepare young people to succeed in college.

Boy studyingAccelerated learning options include dual enrollment, allowing students to earn college credit while completing high school graduation requirements; Advanced Placement, a cooperative program between secondary and postsecondary schools allowing high school students to take college-level courses and earn college credit through national exams developed by the College Board; and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, providing a demanding, two-year high school curriculum that leads to final exams and postsecondary credits that are accepted by universities worldwide.

Dual Enrollment

Dual enrollment programs offer college-level courses to high school students so they can satisfy high school graduation requirements while earning college credit.

Dual enrollment course offerings vary greatly among states and districts. Some are taught by high school instructors, some by college instructors, and some by both. Dual enrollment courses can take place on a high school campus, a college campus, or via distance education.

Financing dual enrollment programs can be complex. The courses can take place on the high school or college campus or both. Funds for such programs come from the state, postsecondary institutions, school districts and, sometimes, the students themselves.

Key aspects of a high-quality dual enrollment program include ensuring that courses meet high academic standards, are available to a wide range of students, are transferable to postsecondary institutions, and have sustainable funding structures.

Dual Enrollment - Research

An emerging body of research has begun to document the actual outcomes of students who participate in dual enrollment during high school:

The Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University, has conducted studies in Florida, New York City, and California and found that dual enrollment participation is positively related to a range of college outcomes, including:

  • College enrollment and persistence;
  • Greater credit accumulation
  • Higher college GPA.

Source: What We Know About Dual Enrollment, Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University (2012)

Additionally, career-focused dual enrollment programs provide important benefits for those who are underachieving and underrepresented in higher education. The Concurrent Courses initiative comprised eight programs involving 10 colleges and 21 high schools across California. Among participating students, 60 percent were students of color and 40 percent came from non-English speaking homes. Program participants, compared with other students in their districts, were:

  • More likely to graduate from high school
  • More likely to transition to a four-year college rather than a two-year college
  • Less likely to take basic skills courses in college
  • More likely to persist in postsecondary education
  • Accumulating more college credits

Source: Broadening the Benefits of Dual Enrollment, Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University (2012)

In 2013, the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) in the U.S. Department of Education reviewed the 2012 report, “The Impact of Dual Enrollment on College Degree Attainment: Do Low-SES Students Benefit?” The report used data from the National Education Longitudinal Study to examine the effects of dual enrollment programs for high school students on college degree attainment. The study reported, and the WWC confirmed, that:

  • Dual enrollment programs significantly increased the likelihood of attaining (a) any college degree and (b) a bachelor’s degree.
  • Students who earned three credits (i.e., had one dual enrollment course) were not more likely to attain a college degree than comparison group students. However, students who earned six credits (i.e., two courses) and students who earned seven or more credits were significantly more likely to attain any college degree or a Bachelor’s degree than comparison students.

Dual enrollment is also a strategy for reengaging high school dropouts. The Gateway to College program, a national network of 43 colleges in 23 states partnering with more than 125 school districts, helps reconnect high school dropouts with their education. Through the program, students are able to complete their high school diploma requirements on a college campus while simultaneously earning credits toward a college degree or certificate. Gateway to College programs are achieving positive results in a number of key areas. Participating students have:

  • Better Attendance. Despite struggling with very poor attendance in high school, Gateway to College students have an average attendance rate of 82%.
  • Greater Sense of Connection. Gateway to College students report a substantial reduction in problems with peers, school administration, and faculty, compared to their experiences in high school. Gateway students also report feeling safer and “more cared for” than they did while enrolled in high school.
  • Improved Academic Performance. Nearly all courses offered to Gateway to College students are standard college courses. Since 2004, Gateway students have earned a C or better in 72% of over 65,000 courses where a letter grade is awarded.
  • College Credit Accumulation. Students graduate from Gateway to College with a high school diploma and an average of 33 college semester credit hours, putting them well on the way to earning an associate’s degree.

Advanced Placement

Advanced Placement, a cooperative program between secondary and postsecondary schools, allows high school students to take college-level courses and earn college credit through national exams developed by the College Board.

Recognizing that students who score well on Advanced Placement exams are more likely to persist in college and earn a degree, a handful of states have set goals and provided funding to increase the number of high school students taking one or more Advanced Placement courses and scoring at mastery.

Advanced Placement - Research

More high school graduates are participating—and succeeding—in college-level AP courses and exams than ever before. Succeeding in AP is defined as achieving a score of 3 or higher on the five-point AP Exam scale, which is the score needed for credit, advanced placement or both at the majority of colleges and universities. The College Board’s 10th Annual AP Report to the Nation reports on each state’s efforts to improve high school achievement by involving greater segments of the student population — and traditionally underserved students in particular — in rigorous AP courses.

While incentive programs have been successful at increasing participation in AP, they frequently decrease student success rates and have yet to eliminate equity gaps for minority and low-income students in regard to participation and success in AP courses. The Center for Evaluation and Education Policy’s The Impact of Advanced Placement Incentive Programs explores the effectiveness of incentive programs and makes recommendations to improve them.

The Advanced Placement Expansion project of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices was part of a large-scale initiative launched in 2005 to redesign the American high school.

Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Nevada, and Wisconsin received funding to expand AP courses to minority and low-income students at 51 pilot high schools in rural and urban school districts. The National Governors Association Raising Rigor, Getting Results: Lessons Learned from AP Expansion concluded that it is possible to expand access to AP courses and improve achievem ent for minority and low-income students at scale, and that there are state policies and practices that can help.

International Baccalaureate

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme provides a demanding, two-year high school curriculum that leads to final exams and postsecondary credits that are accepted by universities worldwide.

Currently there are close to 1 million IB students at 3,394 schools in 141 countries across the world, with 798 IB World Schools in the United States offering the Diploma Programme. The first school was authorized in 1971.

State Action

Accelerated Learning Options / Dual Enrollment – Recent examples of state efforts to use accelerated learning options to improve college and career readiness include:

  • Oregon SB 222 (2013) establishes the Accelerated Learning Committee to examine methods to encourage and enable students to obtain college credits while still in high school. The committee will study alignment of funding, assessments and procedures between high schools and institutions of higher education to encourage efficiencies and make postsecondary education more affordable for families. Oregon SB 254 (2011) creates oversight systems and a grant program to encourage and facilitate accelerated college credit programs, including dual credit, two-plus-two, advanced placement and International Baccalaureate programs. The Department of Education is required to administer the grant program, supply training for teachers who will provide instruction in accelerated college credit programs at the secondary school and award grant funds to assist students in paying for college credits. In addition, the Joint Boards of Education are directed to develop statewide standards for the dual credit programs and each school district, community college and state institution of higher education that provides a dual credit program is required to implement the statewide standards and submit an annual report to the Joint Boards of Education on the academic performance of students enrolled in the dual enrollment program.
  • Maine LD 1412 (2013) establishes a collaborative board composed of representatives of career and technical education programs, high schools and publicly supported postsecondary institutions to implement a program that enables career and technical education students to earn college credits while attending high school.
  • Washington HB 1642 (2013) encourages school board of directors to adopt an academic acceleration policy for high school students. Requires districts to automatically enroll any student who meets the state standard on the high school statewide student assessment in the next most rigorous level of advanced courses offered by the high school. Students who successfully complete an advanced course are then enrolled in the next most rigorous level of advanced course, with the objective that students will eventually be automatically enrolled in courses that offer the opportunity to earn dual credit for high school and college.
  • Idaho HB 426 (2012) establishes the "8 in 6 Program" to identify students who are taking courses in grades 7 through 12 at an accelerated rate and provide them with an incentive to participate in dual credit with the intent of earning up to two years of college credits while still in high school. The program will provide funding so that a portion of the summer online courses and online overload courses taken by such students will be paid for by the state department of education.
  • Colorado HB 1319 (2009) overhauled and dramatically expanded the state’s concurrent enrollment programs. The bill also included provisions to make remedial courses available to 12th graders as part of concurrent enrollment and created the ASCENT (Accelerating Students Through Concurrent ENrollmenT) program.  ASCENT allows students who are eligible to graduate instead remain enrolled in their high school and earn both a high school diploma and college certificate or associates degree over a five year extended high school experience. An appointed “Concurrent Enrollment Advisory Board” creates common procedures across K-12 districts and colleges; the board has the authority to make policy and funding recommendations to boards and the legislature. SB 285 (also 2009) included career and technical education as options for concurrent enrollment programs.

Early Graduation Incentives (“Move on When Ready” Acts) – These programs use a portion of per-pupil funding to pay for community college, a career and technical education program, or four-year college (with the high school that graduated the student early receiving a portion of per-pupil funding through what would have been the students’ senior year):

  • Tennessee HB 837 (2011) creates the Move on When Ready Act. Beginning with the 2012-2013 school year, a public school student may complete an early high school graduation program and be eligible for unconditional entry into a public two-year institution of higher education or conditional entry into a public four-year institution of higher education. Provides for state funding.
  • Arizona HB 2731 (2010) creates the Grand Canyon Diploma, offered to any student demonstrating readiness for college level mathematics and English and who has passing grades in required approved board exams in core academic courses. Students pursuing a Grand Canyon Diploma may enroll the following semester in an Arizona community college in courses offered on a community college campus, high school campus or both; remain in high school and enroll in additional advanced preparation board examination programs designed to prepare for admission to high quality postsecondary institutions; enroll in a full-time career and technical education program offered on a community college campus, a high school campus, a joint technological education district campus or any combination; or return to a traditional academic program without completing the next level of Board Examination System curriculum. Provides for state funding, depending on which option the student chooses. Permits a Grand Canyon Diploma to be awarded to students by the end of grade 10, 11 or 12.
  • Georgia HB 149 (2009), the Move on When Ready Act, provides a program for students in grades 11 and 12 to attend postsecondary colleges and schools for high school credit, notifies parents and students of the program, provides for state funding, and sets requirements for course credit and testing.

Advanced Placement / International Baccalaureate – Some states have acted to expand access to Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate program, and to ensure that credits earned in these programs are recognized by institutions of higher education:

  • Arkansas SB 509 (2013) establishes the advanced placement training and incentive program to prepare more students for success in higher education, postsecondary training and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; provides grant funding to organizations that implement measures to achieve the goals of the Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program; and states that the program shall provide advanced placement content directors and professional development for teachers. (Arkansas has been working to improve Advanced Placement participation since 2003, with HB 1154 (2003, Second Extraordinary Session) setting a goal of increased AP participation and requiring all schools to offer at least one AP course in the four content areas of English, math, science and social studies.)
  • Tennessee HB 705 (2013) directs the state board of education to seek a national nonprofit education organization with which to form the Tennessee Advanced Placement Partnership (TAPP). The partnership is to provide professional development to AP teachers and administrators, provide middle and high school teachers with pre-AP professional development and materials, use test results to identify students prepared for or who need additional work to be prepared for AP courses, and prepare an annual report on program outcomes to the education committees of the legislature and the state board of education. Requires the state to pay for AP exam fees and certification or licensure exams for CTE students, regardless of the score achieved.
  • Virginia SB 1077 (2011) clarifies that the criteria for which students are awarded credit by institutions of higher education for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses is dependent on Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate examination scores, not on course completion.
  • Washington HB 1524 (2011) states that students who fulfill specified requirements toward completion of an IB Diploma are considered to have satisfied state minimum requirements for graduation from a public high school, except that the requirement for students to meet the standard on state assessments still applies to the IB students; and laws requiring students to study the United States and Washington Constitutions as a prerequisite for graduation still apply to the IB students, but the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction may adopt a rule allowing the IB students to meet the prerequisite through non-credit based study. School districts may require the IB students to complete additional local graduation requirements before issuing a high school diploma, but are encouraged to waive local requirements for students to pursue an IB Diploma.

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