While much of the news about Sunnyside High School is about efforts to serve those who need the most help, the school is not neglecting the students who are reaching for college.
Sunnyside High School Assistant Principal Ryan Maxwell says the students on a college track are well represented and have options available to them. "We want all of our students to succeed and reach their highest potential," he says.
Sunnyside High School has been working with the University of Washington and Central Washington University to make sure high school students can earn college credit before they graduate. With these efforts, Sunnyside has exceeded new requirements about to go into effect.
An act passed by the Legislature earlier this year is designed to make it easier for high school students to get college credit by doing college-level work. Sunnyside High School already meets the requirements of the act.
An analysis conducted by the Higher Education Coordinating Board found that offering high school students more college-level course work helped improve college completion rates and allowed students to complete college earlier, reducing expenses and making room for more students. The problem has been that different colleges offered different credit for classes and exams.
The Launch Year Act (E2SHB 1808) directs universities to provide clearer information about what credit they offer for Advanced Placement and other college equivalent courses, and to provide that information to state high schools.
The act also directs high schools to make that information available to all students interested in higher education and to work toward having enough advanced courses available that all interested high school students can get a full year's worth of postsecondary credit before graduating.
Sunnyside High School already offers about 20 Advanced Placement courses in a dozen subjects. With Advanced Placement, students take a test at the end of the course to earn credits at an associated university.
Sunnyside also currently offers four different college in the classroom courses. With these courses students who pass the assessments earn the credits without having to wait for the test at the end of the course. Next year the school will be adding five more courses, with some of them partially funded by grants.
Both Advanced Placement and college in the classroom courses reduce the costs of college tuition for students. Advanced Placement exams cost $87 per test, and financial aid is available for students in need. This cost is significantly less than the price of tuition required to take an equivalent class in college.
College in the classroom courses also are available at a reduced price, and one of the courses offered this year is fully paid for every student by a grant. Financial aid for all courses is available, and two of the courses next year will be partially grant funded.
Between the two types of college courses, students at Sunnyside High School can already earn a full year of college credit before graduation, and when the new college in the classroom courses are available next year, students can earn those credits without even needing an Advanced Placement course.
"We find that college in the classroom has a higher success rate," says Maxwell. "Both approaches have their advantages, but with Advanced Placement we see only a percentage pass the test to earn credits, while students who take the college in the classroom courses will get those credits as long as they attend class and do well on the assessments."