On January 30, 2014, the College and Career Readiness and Success Center, in partnership with the American Youth Policy Forum, hosted a webinar entitled “Early College, Early Success: Program Overview, Research Findings, and Implications for Practice. “ This second webinar in our accelerated learning series presented recent research findings from a rigorous study of Early College High Schools (ECHSs), followed by a discussion of implications for practitioners. ECHSs provide students with access to college-preparatory high school courses and credit-bearing college courses in a supportive learning environment.
In this post, two of the webinar presenters—Joel Vargas, Vice President at Jobs for the Future (JFF) and leader of JFF’s High School through College team and Dr. Julie Penley from El Paso Community College (EPCC) in Texas—respond to some of the unanswered questions from participants that emerged during the event:
1. What advice would you give to state and/or district levels in their efforts to bring the Early College High School model to scale?
Joel Vargas: To do this well requires a dual focus on structure and instruction. The structural work entails designing and implementing the course of study, support systems, and partnerships needed to build the early college pathways so that students earn transferrable college credit and experience themselves as college students. At the same time, schools can only be successful preparing the early college target population of underrepresented students if they strengthen teaching and learning. So, scale is a matter of expanding connections to college and deepening the focus on improving instruction.
Julie Penley: Make sure that top-level administrators (public school superintendents, president or VP of instruction from institutions of higher education, etc.) are committed to the relationship and truly understand what an ECHS needs and is. Some think it's just like dual credit that's offered in a comprehensive high school and don't understand the intricacies of degree plan mapping, counseling, etc. Ask other ECHSs in your area or state for copies of their Memos of Understanding to make sure you've included all the key components in your own agreement. See what resources/advice your state K-12 and higher education agencies have to guide you.
2. Can you describe what the 13th year looks like for students?
Joel Vargas: From a national perspective, it is typically a year spent largely taking a full-time college load but still having the high school as a home base.
3. During the webinar, there was mention of “college ready” versus “college eligible.” Can you articulate the difference between the two, and discuss how ECHSs contribute?
Joel Vargas: The way I understand the distinction is that there is a difference between meeting all of the admission requirements to be admitted as a college student (college eligible) and possessing the skills, knowledge, habits, and maturity—i.e., all aspects of what David Conley calls “College Knowledge” —to be successful in college (college ready).
Julie Penley: They're synonymous in Texas. College ready is the term we typically use to refer to students who place high enough on the college placement exams (not entrance exams, because EPCC is an open access institution) to avoid having to take developmental education (remediation) in Math, Reading, or Writing. A student who is "college ready" is able to enroll in college-level transfer courses (e.g., History, Psychology, Chemistry).
4. Are ECHSs building relationships with local industry? If so, can you describe an example.
Joel Vargas: The last couple of years have seen a lot of attention paid to P-Tech in Brooklyn, NY which involves an impressive partnership with IBM. The model is built upon the foundation of an early college – supporting students to earn an Associate’s degree by graduation – and adds an important career connection component with IBM. The course of study is designed to prepare students for credentials and careers in Information Technology and/or for further postsecondary education, and IBM has pledged that successful graduates will be first in line for such jobs at the company. This approach is expanding nationally to places like Chicago (which is starting five STEM-Early Colleges with industry partnerships, including IBM, Verizon, Motorola, Cisco, and Microsoft) and through the Pathways to Prosperity national network led by a partnership between Jobs for the Future and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Julie Penley: Not formally, although ECHS students in El Paso have participated in competitions, internships, etc. sponsored by local companies as opportunities arise.
Jennifer Brown Lerner is the senior director at the American Youth Policy Forum the external technical assistance liaison for the College and Career Readiness and Success Center.