Smoothing the Path describes successful state-level strategies and policy lessons learned in four states during the development of schools that integrate secondary and postsecondary education. It builds on an earlier JFF study, Integrating Grades 9-14: Policies to Support Early College High Schools, which identified barriers to implementing these innovative schools. Statewide efforts in the multi-year Early College High School Initiative, which began in Ohio and Utah in 2002 and in Texas and Georgia in 2004, show how the barriers are being addressed.
These case studies present the first steps in a long-term agenda to align and integrate grades 9 through 14 so that students can move more seamlessly into postsecondary education. While so far the levers pulled to accomplish the changes are modest, they suggest that the states highlighted are open to harmonizing dissonant policies—or, at least, finding enough latitude within existing rules—to have established a total of 48 early college high schools in the four states.