“Early-college high schools” are helping high-risk students combine high school with community college, reports the New York Times. Students can earn a high school diploma and up to two years of college credit in five years.
“Last year, half our early-college high schools had zero dropouts, and that’s just unprecedented for North Carolina, where only 62 percent of our high school students graduate after four years,” said Tony Habit, president of the North Carolina New Schools Project, the nonprofit group spearheading the state’s high school reform.
In addition, North Carolina’s early-college high school students are getting slightly better grades in their college courses than their older classmates.
The Gates Foundation is funding more than 200 early-college programs.
“As a nation, we just can’t afford to have students spending four years or more getting through high school, when we all know senior year is a waste,” said Hilary Pennington of the Gates Foundation, “then having this swirl between high school and college, when a lot more students get lost, then a two-year degree that takes three or four years, if the student ever completes it at all.”
According to Gates’ research, “early-college schools that had been open for more than four years had a high school graduation rate of 92 percent — and 4 out of 10 graduates had earned at least a year of college credit.”
“Middle college” programs that let high school students take all their courses at community colleges are old hat. There’s no evidence participants are more likely to stay in school, concludes the What Works Clearinghouse. The early-college model is more structured, with students spending more time in a high school environment preparing to meet college demands.