Connecticut is among eight states that will pilot test a rigorous examination that could dramatically alter the notion of traditional high school education and allow students to graduate after their sophomore year, officials announced today.

Each state will select 10 to 20 schools by fall of 2011 to begin testing a system of coursework and tests that has been widely used in other nations to bolster academic standards and prepare students for college, according to the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE).

Under the Board Examination System, students who volunteer to take the exam and pass it at the end of 10th grade would be eligible to enroll at any open admissions two-year or four-year college in their state, said NCEE, a Washington, D.C.-based education reform group.

Students also could choose to remain in school and take a program preparing them for admission to selective colleges.

The system would require states to pass legislation allowing a new path to a diploma, said NCEE President Marc Tucker. It is designed to encourage students to take tougher courses and work harder in order to be ready for college, he said.

“For the first time in the United States, kids will know what they have to do, whether they want to be a carpenter, a plumber or a brain surgeon,” he said.

Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont will work with NCEE through a $1.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to pilot test the new curriculum, teacher training and exams.

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