Early College Schools: Success Built on Support

By Andrea Berger (guest blogger)

Early College Schools affiliated with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Early College High School Initiative strive to enroll students from populations typically underrepresented in colleges and enable them to graduate with at least one year of college credit. Despite enrolling students not typically viewed “college material,” Early College High School students earned an average GPA of 3.1 in college classes and graduates earned an average of almost one year of college credit.[1]

These accomplishments are not the results of simply signing students up for college, but reflect a strong focus on student supports at every school. A statement from one principal to students reflects the stance of the initiative: “We’re going to expect a lot, but you can also expect a lot of us.” All Early College Schools strive to institute a comprehensive program of supports for students that include accurate and on-going assessment of student achievement and progress, formal supports such as tutoring and seminars, and strong teacher-student relationships.  Examples include:

  • Assessing basic math and reading skills upon enrollment, separate from state standardized tests, with extensive supplemental instruction for those students who are significantly behind.
  • Identifying and intervening with students who are falling off track academically. Students who fall behind receive individual academic plans and more intensive supports.
  • Establishing relationships with college faculty and staff to facilitate communication about student performance so the staff can intervene before grades are final.
  • Supporting students in challenging college courses with extra sessions on the college content taught by either a college or high school instructor.
  • Striving to have every student develop a strong relationship with at least one instructor. Some graduates noted that the relationships were strong and they continued to turn to their high school instructors after they graduated and enrolled in college.

Additionally, many schools intentionally change the support model as students progress, moving from mandatory to student-requested supports.  As a result, many Early College graduates leave high school knowing what is required to be successful in college and knowing that they can do it.

Guest Author: Andrea Berger is a Principal Research Analyst at the American Institutes for Research. Since 2002, she has directed the evaluation of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Early College High School Initiative.

 

Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.


[1] http://www.air.org/files/ECHSI_Eval_Report_2009_081309.pdf and http://www.air.org/files/ECHSI_Synthesis_Report_FINAL.pdf

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