Florida Tries 3-Year HS Program

Natalie the student CBS

At Miami Beach Senior High, school opens in controversy.

If their parents approve, CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, Florida teenagers now can squeeze high school into three years instead of four.

Natalie Koller is starting her junior year and in a hurry to chase her Ivy League dreams.

But should kids have the option?

"Definitely, just to get ahead and be able to achieve in life - get ahead in life," says Koller.

To graduate as juniors, students have to pass a core curriculum: English, math, science, history.

Students will take no classes in music or the arts and few electives whatsoever. They'll graduate with the basics of high school, but not much more.

Florida lawmakers have a mandate to thin out overcrowded schools, and approved early graduation for students.

"The idea is to allow them to run like the thoroughbreds that they are academically and emotionally," says former lieutenant governor Frank Brogan, the president of Florida Atlantic University.

Some believe it's a big risk.

One worry for teachers and parents is teenage maturity.

"I walk these hallways everyday, and I don't see many kids who are ready," says the school's football coach Rick Divito.

Students graduating early will miss the prom and other rituals of senior year.

If they're applying to college, skipping most enrichment classes could mean a rush to disappointment.

Competitive universities, like Emory in Atlanta, want well-rounded candidates.

"Nine times out of ten, my advice is why hurry? You only have one chance to do high school well, and I don't understand the pressures to get out early," says Daniel Walls, admissions dean at Emory University.

The more she heard, the more Koller began to wonder if the program was really for her.

But other Florida teens will take that chance - and put their futures on the fast track.

  • Jaime Holguin

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