Early college draws at-risk students

“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.

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Comments

  1. Michael E. Lopez says:

    “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.

    Speaking solely for myself, my senior year of high school was one of the most profound periods of intellectual and social growth I ever had. It took about 3 years for people to get to know me, and for me to get to know myself. I had three of my best classes ever that year.

    So while on the basis of my own experience, I can’t generalize and say that the senior year of high school isn’t, in fact, a waste, I can certainly disagree with Ms. Pennington and say that it is decidedly NOT something that we “all know”.

  2. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Two things that occurred to me:

    1) Hilary might be a man. So please read “Ms/Mr.” in the above post.

    2) I should have made clear that I’m not opposed to the idea of packing a little more into High School. I was just a little miffed at the particular sentiment expressed about the senior year.

    Here’s what I suspect though: If you put the students through a 5-year “early college” high school, my guess is that most of them come out just barely qualified to actually attend a community college without having to take remedial classes.

    That’s just my pessimistic guess, though.

  3. It’ll be interesting to read the studies of the program, once they’ve amassed a longer track record. If the figures hold up, it makes a difference. 62% graduation rate (standard high schools) vs. 92% graduation rate (e.c. high school.)

    For many high school students, “just barely qualified to actually attend a community college without having to take remedial classes” would be an enormous step forward. If none of them* get pregnant, no one drops out, and no one turns to a life of crime, tremendous.

    *or very few.

  4. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Then why don’t we call it what it is:

    5th year of high school because the students are either too slow or too far behind to do it in four.

  5. Shelley Ferguson says:

    I read the NYT article with great interest this morning, and came across this blog as part of my follow-up investigation. We have two kinds of “at risk” being discussed here, and the one that hasn’t popped up in the comments is the student who is ready for college level courses before senior year. Which would mean, quite contrary to “5th year seniors,” we are looking at something like a “3rd year freshman”–third year of high school, but taking *college* freshman courses.

    Those kids are at risk of dropping out, yes, or more likely, turning off, and not realizing their potential.