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From high school senior directly to college sophomore? Some Utah students are doing it, earning college credits while they are still working toward a high school diploma.

Not all end up with enough credit to meet the requirements for a full year of college, but many are able to accelerate their college studies to the extent of one or more classes.Chad Rappleye, son of Alan and Arlene Rappleye, is one who will pack a bunch of college credit along with his high school diploma when he heads for New Haven, Conn., this fall to attend Yale. He has earned more than 60 college credits that will give him a considerable boost toward a college degree.

While still in high school, he took Advanced Placement courses in American history, chemistry, calculus, biology, English and physics. He was one of two Brighton High School students who placed among five national finalists in the Chemistry Olympiad, and he was valedictorian of his class when it graduated last week.

In addition to his AP courses, he took two laboratory classes at the University of Utah, one each in biology and chemistry.

Around the country, colleges and universities vary in how they accept the credits earned in high school. Some, including Utah's public institutions of higher learning, provide direct credit. Others simply allow the student to bypass the courses in which they received AP credit, moving on to higher level classes.

"Yale does some of both," Chad said. He isn't certain how his 60-plus credits will be distributed but expects to "save a load of money" as a result of his beyond-the-call high school effort. He has National Merit and Robert C. Byrd scholarships to help defray his expenses, and selected Yale after passing up offers from MIT and CalTech.

Chad is one of more than 8,000 Utah high school students who have taken advanced placement courses or who have been concurrently enrolled at both high school and college, giving them a head start on their college educations. Utah leads the country in the ratio of students involved in AP classes.

In a recent report to the Education Interim Committee of the Utah Legislature, state school officials reported that 613 Utah students per 100,000 population took AP exams, compared with 185 per 100,000 nationwide. Even with Utah's high population in the school-age years, the figure is impressive, said Keith Steck, of the State Office of Education.

In 1988, 5,831 Utah students took AP courses; 8,957 examinations were given and 6,331 passed, for a 70.7 percent pass rate, Steck said. The national pass rate was 67.3 percent. Utah has consistently increased the percentage of students taking courses and passing the tests since 1985.

In addition, 2,425 students logged a total 23,517 hours in concurrent enrollment classes in 1987-88. The college-level classes are taught either in the high school by teachers approved by a local college or at the college itself. Some students literally divide their day between college and high school, allowing them to take part in high school activities with their own peers while still earning college credit.

The program is only in its second year, and preliminary figures for 1988-89 indicate a significant increase in concurrent enrollment participation, state office representatives said.

Some colleges originally were reluctant to accept the credits earned in high school toward a major, although they were willing to allow the credit toward filling general requirements. Leaders in public and higher education are still working out such details, Steck said.

He was somewhat concerned that concurrent enrollment, which has been encouraged by the Legislature, may discourage some students from taking AP courses. The quality of concurrent enrollment courses is not yet consistent throughout the state because the concept is relatively new, he said.

Associate State Superintendent Bruce Griffin told legislators the nationally designed and graded AP tests are available in 14 academic areas, with a total of 24 courses.

Utah's high AP standing becomes more noteworthy in view of the number of students who take and pass AP courses. As more students take the classes, the potential for dropping average scores and having more failures increases. In many states, only the very cream of the student population takes the classes.

Chad credited "excellent teachers" for his running head-start on college but acknowledged that the burden rests with those on the learning end of the equation.

"It's very worthwhile," he said, "but you have to be willing to do the extra work. I filled four notebooks from my AP history course. You have to sacrifice some sleep."

The availability of teachers who are academically prepared and willing to deal with the more rigorous requirements of the national program is one factor in the success of Utah students, said Steck.

However, many of Utah's rural districts are not able to offer AP courses because staff demands are too great. Technology is helping to fill this gap in some districts, with televised programs expanding the influence of good teachers. The state hopes to significantly expand the course offerings through technology in the future, giving more students the ability to work on high school and college requirements simultaneously.