Bill to allow Academically Advanced Students to get a Jump Start on a College Degree Passes Senate

June 1, 2013

Sen. Boucher driving force behind legislation

Hartford, CT – State Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) ranking member of the state’ s Higher Education Committee has successfully achieved bipartisan unanimous support in the senate for Senate Bill 1000; AN ACT CONCERNING THE BOARD EXAMINATION SERIES PROGRAM. This legislation that Senator Boucher introduced this legislative session will permit students to test-out of grade twelve and enroll in certain colleges and universities in Connecticut.

“The proposal will allow Connecticut’s academically advanced 11th graders to take existing tests and apply to waive their final year of high school. This would allow them to begin college early,” said Sen. Boucher.

Boucher points to the need for highly skilled workers in Connecticut in the areas of science, technology, engineering and manufacturing also known as STEM. Data shows that from 2000 to 2010, STEM jobs grew three times faster than non-STEM jobs, and unemployment in the STEM fields are 4.4 percent lower. Responding to the needs of business, the State of Connecticut intends to increase STEM graduates by 47 percent, turning out a workforce that is trained for real-world jobs.

“The focus of the bill is to foster this learning pipeline early and allow our academically advanced students the opportunity to learn and live here in Connecticut,” said Sen. Boucher. “The state of Connecticut has always been considered one of the best states for education. It places a top priority on making sure that all of our children have access to the highest quality of education instruction available.

Sen. Boucher says that although Connecticut has garnered some unwelcome attention for having the largest achievement gap, policy makers should never forget that we have also been rated at the top of the nation in education quality, which is one of the few reasons that we still attract people and businesses.

“An area that has been prioritized in the last couple of decades both on a national and state level is special education. In an effort to have our children with special needs realize their fullest potential, budgets and legislation have been devoted to this very important and unanimously supported priority,” said Sen. Boucher.

Sen. Boucher points to a fact that “in many communities over 20% of school budgets have now been dedicated to the 5-10% of the student population requiring special services. This intense focus on special education has been remarkable in the improvement of educational services and outcome for this special population, and these results have benefitted and enhanced our community greatly.”

However, she believes, “it is also true that over the years Connecticut has seen a decline in attention and services to those students who are able to advance at more accelerated rate than the majority of the student population.”

“I was dismayed and disappointed to see this trend during my time on my local Board of Education, the state Board of Education and here in the House and Senate. This decline has occurred during budget crises and even in times of surplus. There is an often a misguided notion even by some education professionals that this special body of students will succeed without any extra resources or services devoted to them, but I can attest that too many do not succeed, and face enormous barriers to recognizing their great potential,” added Sen. Boucher. “There is much research and data that shows the frustration of these students, and the emotional and mental difficulties that result from adjusting to a normal educational environment, and that often present obstacle to success. That is something we hope can be better addressed in the future at different grade levels. However, putting that great need aside for the moment, this bill is a small but important step in helping those that are academically advanced and emotionally ready to pursue their education at a pace very different from their peers.”

Senate bill 1000 formalizes and permits a school system to allow a student at the end of 11th grade to waive their senior year if they satisfy certain criteria. Students must achieve the following:

  • Attain certain scores on an already existing national test
  • A high GPA
  • Obtain the recommendations of at least three teaching professionals at the high school and the approval of the school system
  • Approval from the state Department of Education

“This would be a small step in recognizing and rewarding our academically advanced students and provide them with a valuable year to enhance their interests and skills through work or study abroad or hopefully in Connecticut’s system of higher education,” said Sen. Boucher. “And although this bill does not provide free tuition free tuition to qualifying students attending state universities as originally intended, it is my hope that by passing this bill, those CT institutions of higher education would consider these special students as prime candidates for their scholarship programs and help us keep academically advanced students in our state. This bill is a win-win for everyone.”

Sen. Boucher thanked the chairs of the Education Committee for their guidance and support to help move this concept forward. Acknowledging they share a passion for educational excellence and the desire to for every one of our children to reach their full potential and become contributing members of our society. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.