Early College Proves a Draw

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Early college proves a draw — for at-risk students:

Until recently, most programs like this were aimed at affluent, overachieving students — a way to keep them challenged and give them a head start on college work. But the goal is quite different at SandHoke, which enrolls only students whose parents do not have college degrees.

Here, and at North Carolina’s other 70 early-college schools, the goal is to keep at-risk students in school by eliminating the divide between high school and college.
Results have been impressive. Not all students at North Carolina’s early-college high schools earn two full years of college credit before they graduate — but few drop out.

“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.
A recent report from Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit group that is coordinating the Gates initiative, found that in 2008, the 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.

With a careful sequence of courses, including ninth-grade algebra, and attention to skills like note-taking, the early-college high schools accelerate students so that they arrive in college needing less of the remedial work that stalls so many low-income and first-generation students. “When we put kids on a college campus, we see them change totally, because they’re integrated with college students, and they don’t want to look immature,” said Michael Webb, associate vice president of Jobs for the Future.

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