Senior-Year Redesign
Accelerating Postsecondary Attainment


The new High Schools That Work model redesigns the senior year of high school to give college-ready students a head start on a credential or degree and help struggling students enter postsecondary programs without the need for remediation.

Ready for College? The Accelerated Option

In the new HSTW model, college-ready seniors take high-quality dual enrollment courses that allow them to graduate with up to 30 credits toward an associate or bachelor’s degree.

Dual enrollment courses are taught by qualified high school teachers or college faculty using college syllabi, exams and materials at the high school, on a college campus or online. Courses are also taught on the college schedule, with time built in for labs, internships or capstone experiences.

Not Ready for College?

HSTW’s senior-year redesign includes three options for students who need extra help meeting readiness benchmarks in literacy and math:

  • Ready Option 1: Seniors whose assessment scores fall well below readiness benchmarks — for example, three or more points below benchmarks on tests like the ACT — receive a suite of services designed to enhance their foundational academic, technical and workplace skills while empowering them to make informed educational and career choices. Students receive intensive remediation in literacy and math alongside their core academic and career pathway courses. Students also engage in career counseling and work-based learning experiences like job shadows and internships. Career interest and aptitude inventories and workshops on time management and study skills build confidence as students prepare to enter the workforce or enroll in a postsecondary credential or degree program.
  • Ready Option 2: Seniors who aren’t quite ready for college-level studies — for example, those whose scores fall within two or three points below benchmarks on the ACT — enroll in a double-block of specially designed readiness courses like Literacy Ready and Math Ready during the first semester of their senior year. Students also engage in college- and career-preparatory experiences like those described under Option 1. In the second semester, students who meet readiness benchmarks may take dual enrollment courses equaling up to 15 credits toward a postsecondary credential or degree.
  • Ready Option 3: Seniors who do not meet academic college- or career-readiness benchmarks after completing Literacy Ready and Math Ready in their first semester engage in a series of intensive college- and career-preparatory courses and supplemental learning experiences like those described under Option 1. Students graduate ready to enroll in a postsecondary credential or degree program and succeed in college-level math and English courses.

Supportive Policies and Practices

SREB recommends that states interested in HSTW’s senior-year redesign adopt the following key policies and practices to support their college readiness and attainment goals:

  1. Establish benchmarks of academic college readiness and academic and technical career readiness and use state-approved readiness assessments like the ACT, SAT, WorkKeys or college placement exams to determine students’ preparedness for dual enrollment courses.
  2. Certify that dual enrollment courses help students meet high school graduation requirements. Depending on the state’s academic requirements for graduation, some college English and math courses could substitute for a fourth English language arts course or a fourth math.
  3. Require schools to provide readiness courses like Literacy Ready and Math Ready to students identified as not meeting literacy and math benchmarks.
  4. Create structurally guided career pathways that lead from high school to two- and four-year colleges and universities and market these pathways to teachers, counselors, students and parents.
  5. Work with two- and four-year institutions to ensure that dual enrollment courses are equal in quality and rigor to college courses and guaranteed to transfer across credential and degree programs. Accreditation organizations like the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools set criteria for the kinds of courses that can be offered for college credit and by whom they can be taught. SREB can work with states and two- and four-year institutions to streamline credit transfer policies and identify the conditions under which certain high school teachers may offer college courses.
  6. Make the best use of existing resources. Extending quality dual enrollment courses to seniors carries financial implications — from tuition and full-time equivalents to transportation to and from college campuses, technical centers or work sites. SREB can work with secondary and postsecondary education agencies to negotiate funding agreements that recognize each institution’s contribution.

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