It’s EPSO Week in schools across Tennessee, a time designed to increase awareness of Early Postsecondary Opportunities that exist for students and to encourage more students to enroll in them.  

EPSO awareness is important because of the positive impact these courses can have on a students’ future. Research shows that students who participate in EPSO courses are more likely to enroll in and graduate from college. EPSOs allow students to become familiar with postsecondary expectations and develop the confidence and skills for success — this is particularly important for first generation college-going students. EPSOs also decrease the time to complete an industry certificate or degree, saving students money.  

Tennessee has the most comprehensive EPSO offerings in the nation, which includes local, state, national, and international programs — for a total of eight different types of opportunities:

  • Dual Enrollment  
  • Local Dual Credit 
  • Statewide Dual Credit   
  • Advanced Placement (AP) 
  • Cambridge International  
  • International Baccalaureate 
  • College Level Exam Program (CLEP) 
  • Industry Certification 

My own high school experience included two types of EPSOs — AP courses and Industry Certification. Classes like an introduction to electrical industry helped me earn OSHA Safety Certification and exposed me to direct training from a teacher who was a former electrician. These certifications and skills helped me earn a job as an electrical technician assistant with a local family business. The work was fascinating and helped me save money for my upcoming college experience.   

My other EPSO classes in AP courses prepared me for the rigor and expectations I would soon come to find in my university classes. I was familiar with the testing methods, study techniques, and class structure, which made adjusting to college much easier throughout my first year at university and beyond. I entered college with enough credit to bypass general elective credits and enroll directly in the policy and education classes I was most passionate about.  

EPSOs also help close gaps for disadvantaged subgroups. Students from economically disadvantaged households are less likely to attend college than their peers. However, when these students participate in an EPSO, the postsecondary enrollment rate significantly improves.  

Grant, T., & Martin, T. (2018, October)

Despite their proven benefits to economically disadvantaged students, these students are underrepresented in EPSO enrollment. In alignment with our new strategic plan, SCORE is working to ensure that all students receive an excellent public K-12 education and earn a credential or postsecondary degree after high school. SCORE has encouraged and supported Tennessee Public Charter 274, a new law requiring school districts to notify students and parents of all EPSO course offerings for each upcoming school year. The legislation was signed into law in April of this year after receiving unanimous support from lawmakers. This simple yet innovative solution came from listening to what was happening in classrooms and households across Tennessee and will be a strong step forward in ensuring equal access to EPSOs for all students.  

To learn more about SCORE’s work with EPSOs and other student-focused policy, download our Public Education in Tennessee Guide for PolicymakersTo learn more about EPSOs in Tennessee, visit the TDOE website or download their EPSO Week Planning Guide

Oliver Sandreuter is an intern at SCORE.