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Much action is already occurring in policy arena. To assure that the changes move in the right direction, higher education leaders must be proactive and involved. First and foremost, postsecondary education must provide essential information about high school courses that are required for postsecondary admissions and the nature of the knowledge and skills needed for postsecondary success—the standards and expectations that high school courses must address. Higher education can and must do more. Colleges can offer advanced courses to high school students in locations where high schools do not offer a full academic curriculum, particularly in schools that serve low-income and minority students. They must prepare new teachers who can teach according to the high school standards. They need to provide early warning systems that identify high school students who are not on track for college-readiness, coordinate data systems and provide important feedback to high schools. All of these actions by higher education can provide a much-needed anchor to help guide the current wave of high school reform.
In most states, high school students must earn a set number of credits in language arts, math, social studies, science and elective courses in order to earn a diploma. While there is no national curriculum, 43 states have adopted the Common Core Standards, an extensive list of the skills and knowledge students should have at each grade level, K-12. Alternative diploma programs have also adopted those standards and aligned their requirements to the Common Core. Whether you want to enroll in an online diploma program or take an equivalency exam, the Common Core Standards are a basic outline of the types of knowledge and skills needed for a high school diploma.