Bridging the gap between high school and college

Early college programs are bridging the gap between high school and college, reports Community College Daily.

it’s important for community college leaders to work with high school faculty on their turf, said Mary Aycock, former director of Early College Health Science Academy at Butler Community College  (BCC) in Kansas. She spoke at an American Association of Community Colleges convention.

Students enter BCC’s Early College program in their sophomore year of high school. They attend classes once a month that introduce them to higher education and career possibilities in their chosen field of study. They are also introduced to current BCC students who speak with them about their experiences. High school juniors and seniors join a cohort that spends a half day taking 13 to 15 semester hours of classes at the college and a half day taking regular courses at their high schools. The host school district provides Early College students with textbooks for BCC courses free of charge.

“We’ve tried to keep the costs down as much as possible because high school students don’t qualify for regular college financial aid,” Aycock says.

Offering a glimpse of college life motivates students, said Annette Cederholm, associate dean of planning and research at Snead State Community College in Alabama. Twice a year, Snead hosts College Days: High school students are invited to tour the campus and meet with faculty, administrators and students. Snead staffers also participate in a youth leadership program sponsored by local businesses.

How to earn a low-debt bachelor’s degree

Starting at a community college will cut the cost of a bachelor’s degree, but students have to be savvy to make it work, writes Lisa Ward in the Wall Street Journal.

Transferring credits can be be “complicated and confusing,” she writes. Students and parents should research whether their state has coordinated community college and state university credits.

For example, California, Louisiana and Texas guarantee admission to a four-year state university to any student who earns an associate degree at an in-state community college. Florida has the same guarantee for an associate of arts, but transfers will need high grades and prerequisites to get into popular majors at prestigious schools.

Some states, including Texas and Florida, use the same numbering system for community college and state university courses. Psych 101 is the same at every school, making it easier for students to know which credits will transfer.

Hybrid degree programs also help transfers earn low-cost bachelor’s degrees.

 Houston Community College and University of Texas at Tyler designed a program where students can earn an associate’s degree in engineering from HCC and then enroll at UT Tyler, as long as their grade-point average is 2.5 or higher. The program sets the student up for a bachelor’s degree in mechanical, electrical or civil engineering.

“It costs $19,000, for all four years, if you live in-state,” says David Le, who is enrolled in the program. “No one ever believes me when I tell them how cheap it is,” says Mr. Le, who lives at home because the program is taught entirely at HCC’s campus.

Earning college credit in high school also cuts the cost of a degree. Most schools offer Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses that enable students to earn college credit. Increasingly, students can earn credits through “dual enrollment” or “early college” classes, which often are taught by community college instructors.

“In many cases, dual enrollment and early college are the absolutely cheapest way to earn college credit because it’s free,” says Dilip Das, assistant vice provost at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Early college high students earn degrees

Early College high school students are more likely to enroll in college and earn a degree than their peers, according an updated study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). Some 23 percent of students received an associate’s degree within two years compared with 2 percent for those attending other high schools, reports Early College, Continued Success.

Since 2002, more than 240 Early Colleges have opened in U.S. high schools. Early Colleges partner with colleges and universities, which offer college-level courses.

Overall, 81 percent of Early College students enrolled in college, compared with 72 percent of comparison students. 

P-Tech’s 9-14 model expands in New York

At Brooklyn’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School, known as P-Tech, students study a curriculum designed with help from IBM, work with mentors supplied by IBM and get on the inside track for IBM jobs when they graduate — potentially with an associate degree. The employer-linked grade 9-14 academic model will be replicated at 16 sites across the state, said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“The P-Tech model already has been copied at other schools in New York City, as well as in Chicago and Idaho,” reports Education Week.

While the Brooklyn-based version of P-Tech was connected to IBM, the partnerships in other parts of the state have drawn employers not just in technology, but health care, manufacturing, engineering, environmentally friendly building, and other industries. Companies who have come on board in communities across the state include Cisco, Lockheed Martin, Arkwin Industries, and others.

“This groundbreaking program will give students across the state the opportunity to earn a college degree without taking on significant debt from student loans while also starting on a pathway to a good-paying job when they graduate,” Cuomo said in a statement.

P-Tech opened two years ago, so “it remains to be seen how successful it will be in fulfilling its college-and-career goals for students,” notes Ed Week.

Early College boosts college success

Early College students are more likely to complete high school, enroll in college and earn a degree quickly, compared to similar students, concludes a multi-year study of 10 schools that were part of the Gates Foundation initiative. 

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) study compared outcomes for students admitted through a lottery to an Early College with outcomes for students who were not admitted. Participants took college-level courses while in high school.

Eighty-six percent of Early College students were graduated from high school  and 80 percent enrolled in college. In the control group,  81 percent finished high school and 71 percent enrolled in college. Early College participants were more likely to enroll in a four-year college and university.

One year after leaving high school, 22 percent of Early College students had earned an associate degree; most had completed it in high school. Only 2 percent of the control group had completed a degree that early.

“Early Colleges appeared to mitigate the traditional educational attainment gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students,” the report found.

JFF: ‘Early college’ boosts college enrollment

Students in “early-college high schools” are more likely to complete high school and go on to college, reports Jobs for the Future. Ninety-three percent of students in JFF’s network — 246 early-college schools with 75,000 students — complete a high school diploma in four years,  compared to a national average of 75 percent, according to the JFF report. Seventy-six percent of network graduates enroll immediately in college, compared to a national rate of 68 percent.

At early college high schools open for at least four years, 23 percent of students earn a college certificate or associate degree along with their high school diploma.  The average early-college graduate earns 36 college credits. That’s equivalent to more than a year of college — if all credits are accepted for transfer.

Saving money on college is a big issue for early-college students and their parents, reports JFF. More than half of early-college students come from low-income families, more than two thirds are Latino, black or Native American and xx percent are the first in their family to attend college.

The early-college model appears to be working, reports College Bound.

Allowing students to take even one college-level class in high school can significantly increase the chances of going to and completing college, research from JFF last fall revealed.

The American Institutes for Research has evaluated the Early High School College Initiative and found students in these schools outperform their peers on state standardized assessments and have higher on-time graduation rates than students in surrounding districts.

To reach students with the most need, JFF is shifting early colleges from a small schools model to a “systemic high school reform strategy, writes Joel Vargas on the JFF blog. With a five-year, $15 million federal Investing in Opportunity (i3) grant, JFF will partner with Denver Public Schools, Educate Texas, Brownsville ISD, and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD to spread the early college design to 30,000 new students.

Early college for all in NC district

Early college for all is the new goal of Duplin County schools in rural North Carolina, reports Education Week.

After (Duplin County Superintendent) Austin Obasohan visited Duplin Early College High School on the campus of James Sprunt Community College in Kenansville, N.C., he was inspired.

The academic expectations for students were high there, and nearly all students were graduating from high school—most with an associate degree.

“We want a unified commitment to give every child the same opportunity,” says Obasohan, who came on the job in July 2010.

Teachers will begin creating a “college-going culture” starting in kindergarten. Students in all five district high schools will have a chance to take college-level courses.

The county’s high school graduation rate has risen from 71 percent in 2009-10 to 80.7 percent in 2011-12. Enrollment is divided about evenly between white, Hispanic, and African-American students. About 70 percent qualify for a subsidized school lunch.

Early-college model thrives in N.C.

The early-college model is raising high school graduation rates in Guilford County, North Carolina, reports Education Week.

Four of the schools, which allow students to earn college credits while still in high school, boasted 100 percent graduation rates this past school year, and another three had rates higher than 90 percent.

. . . Once they take college classes, students realize they have the skill set and work ethic to make it, said (Regional Superintendent Terry) Worrell. “No one is holding them back,” she added. “They start to know they are smart.”

Guilford has adopted different variations of the early-college model: Some schools focus on high achievers, while “middle colleges” are designed for students who haven’t done well academically. The district works with Guilford Technical Community College and with private colleges and universities.

With a ninth early-college school opening this fall in Guilford County—this one focused on science, technology, engineering, and math subjects—the district now has the largest concentration of early-college programs in the state, which leads the nation with 74 of them. Guilford has increased high school completion rates overall, from 74 percent in 2006 to 84.5 percent this year. The graduation rate in 2011 for all high schools in North Carolina was 77.9 percent and 91.2 percent for the early-college models, according to the North Carolina New Schools Project, a public-private venture, which supports early-college policy and strategy.

The accelerated Early College at Guilford is located on a private college campus. In 11th and 12th grade, students take classes taught by professors and earn 60 credits.

The district’s middle colleges typically work with 11th and 12th graders who are considered dropout risks and need a fresh start. At the Greensboro College Middle College, Principal Jamie King works to build a family environment and engage students.

“You can’t just fade away here and hide at the back of the classroom,” said Mr. King. “Classes are small, and you have to be part of it.”

The district also offers all-male and all-female options.

The new STEM Early College will open this month at North Carolina A&T, a historically black college. Students will focus on renewable energy, biomedicine or  engineering.

The (lack of) readiness is all

To improve college readiness and accelerate remediation, Texas will adopt a statewide college placement exam, reports the New York Times. College Board will develop the new assessment, which all colleges and universities will give to new students who score below the benchmark on state exams or college admissions tests. Currently, more than half of the state’s high school graduates do not test as ready for college.

. . . “We’ve been using a test that has no diagnostics,” Richard Rhodes, the president of Austin Community College, said of measuring college readiness. “We also haven’t across the board done a good job in preparation to take the test.”

Success rates are very low in the traditional remedial sequence, which can take several semesters — or years — to complete. Recent research has criticized placement tests for overestimating students’ remedial needs and lowering their chances for success.

Texas hopes the new placement exam will help high schools improve.

Some community colleges across the country, including El Paso Community College, have provided students the option to take a college placement exam their junior year of high school. Once they receive their scores, they can use them to guide their course work in their remaining year. (Analyst Pamela) Burdman said it could serve as an early intervention to increase students’ chances at success before they reached the point at which they needed remedial work.

. . . A few school districts across the state have collaborated with local community colleges in another way to increase graduates’ likelihood of success in higher education. At early-college high schools, students can take a higher number of dual-credit courses earlier than their peers at traditional high schools, allowing them at times to leave school with an associate degree.

Five Texas community colleges will implement a student success and completion plan called Texas Completes, reports Community College Times. The first steps:

Revise the curriculum to quickly get students into programs of study, streamline time to degree and facilitate transfer to four-year institutions.

Create a comprehensive student advising and management system that ensures students a strong start and consistent feedback along each step of their way through college.

Restructure developmental education to reduce time spent in pre-collegiate coursework.

Texas Completes is led by the Lone Star College System and includes Alamo CollegesDallas County Community College DistrictEl Paso Community College and South Texas College. Collectively, the five enroll more than one-third of all community college students in the state.


‘You didn’t graduate from high school? Start college today!’

A high-poverty, nearly all-minority district near the Texas-Mexico border, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo had a high dropout rate. Now dropouts and high-risk students are finishing high school while they start career training. All students can take rigorous “early college” courses and the college-going rate doubled in three years, according to a new report from Jobs for the Future.

Superintendent Daniel King came to PSJA from nearby Hidalgo, where he’d pioneered early college and career pathways for all students.  “The dropout rate was horrendous,” King said.  In partnership with South Texas College,  the district created the College, Career, and Technology Academy to help former dropouts complete high school and “seamlessly transition into college courses” when ready. The dropout recovery campaign’s slogan: “You didn’t graduate from high school? Start college today!” Now students who lack the credits to graduate on time can go to CCTA the summer or fall after their four-year graduation rate, instead of returning to high school for a fifth year or dropping out.

PSJA then opened an early college high school with a STEM focus, again partnering with South Texas College. PSJA will become an  Early College High School District, writes King on the JFF blog. Eventually, the college-going culture will start at the elementary level.

We have increased expectations for all students. Our goal is not just to hand out high school diplomas, but to see that our students have the skills they need to move onto college, obtain a college degree and have a prosperous life and career.

Through Early College coursework, students can graduate from high school with at least 12 college hours, a technical certificate, or even an Associate’s degree that prepares them for high-wage employment.

Virtually all PSJA students are Hispanic and 90 percent come from low-income families. Most parents are not well-educated.