High school students earn college credits for free
CLINTON, Ky. — Amid the struggle of school districts nationwide to confront mounting budget cuts and the constant pressures to succeed, a small school system in rural western Kentucky has implemented a program that has educators talking around the country.
Beginning in the fall of 2010, the Hickman County School System implemented a program known as “Falcon Academy” that offers college classes from local universities free-of-charge to its students.
While the idea of high-school students earning college credits is not a new one, administrators maintain their program is unique because of the support from community members.
"They understood our kids and parents could not pay for these classes and so they stepped up to the plate with their money to pay the tuition," said Superintendent Kenny Smith.
He added that the statistics of the recent graduating class help tell the story. The average graduating senior had earned 17.5 hours of college credit from area colleges — including Murray State University, Mid-Content University and West Kentucky Community and Technical College — and 46 out of 48 graduates are attending college or technical school.
Casey Henderson, director of Falcon Academy, said he has seen a dramatic decrease in behavior problems and noticed a much-improved attitude among the students. In past years, the number of office referrals averaged around 800 annually. Since implementing Falcon Academy, that number is down to around 300.
Recently, other school systems and national conferences have taken notice. School officials have been asked to speak of their success and offer their program as a model for other schools to follow at conferences from Louisville to Connecticut.