February 25, 2015

Helping Students Find Success with Early College

There are two high schools in Detroit. One school has all the resources needed to ensure students are headed to college after graduation. The other is more focused on keeping students in school.

On the nprED blog, “How Learning Happens,” Erin Einhorn compares these two high schools. It is a classic example of the “haves” and the “have-nots.”

Andrea Jackson is the sole guidance counselor at Osborn Collegiate Academy of Math, Science and Technology, the “Have-Not” school. While Jackson wants the best for her students, she admits that, “You cannot come into these type of communities and just say, ‘Hey! You’re going to college,’ because, first off, they don’t believe you.”

Unfortunately, Ms. Jackson is correct. But the conversation needn’t end there.

If students are not college-ready, have we really addressed the problem?We hear a lot about needing to have access to college for all. However, when the conversation moves to ways to get first-generation, low-income students into college, the conversation quickly turns to “not those kids.” Solutions like adding AP or Dual Enrollment are popular fixes, but do not typically account for the personalization and supports that first-generation college-goers frequently need. It is not enough to help students graduate from high school with a few college credits under their belt. If they are not college-ready, have we really addressed the problem?

The solution is simple: early college high school.

Looking across the KnowledgeWorks network of partner schools, I see firsthand the success of early college. I have had students tell me their stories of watching the dream of college become a reality. The data shows the model works. Students can graduate with a high school diploma and have 60 credit hours or a two year degree and/or a career credential that will allow them to be immediately employable.

Within the KnowledgeWorks early college model, schools are developed so that each student has multiple supports: teachers, administrators, parents and the community. This shifts the responsibility from one person to many and helps ensure that all students are headed for success.

Guest post by Chuck Pollington

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