As Ohio’s economy continues to lag, everyone is looking for ideas to turn things around. Many are looking to education reform, as educational attainment and economic development are closely and necessarily aligned. One successful approach that may just be an educational silver bullet is the Early College High School.
Regrettably, Ohio is an under-producer of intellectual capital. Nationally, about 38 percent of the adult (25-64) population possess some type of post-secondary degree. For Ohio the figure is 35 percent, with a projection of 44 percent by 2025. Massachusetts, by contrast, currently has a 50 percent rate with a 2025 projection of 58 percent.
We have always known that more education translated into more life-time earnings, but the uncertainty has been about how to drive more young people toward the levels of education that they will need to earn a life-time livable wage.
During the past year, Ohio’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Stan Heffner, called for every Ohio high school student to be college- and career-ready at the time of graduation. This is not about having every student go to college: it is, instead, about making certain that every student possesses the skills to have the choice of going to college.
At the present time, only Ohio’s more affluent suburbs are producing in adequate numbers students who subsequently secure some type of post-secondary credential. In higher poverty districts, the college completion rates are flat at a rather dismal 10-15% rate: That means 9 out of 10 higher poverty students currently have no post-secondary degree.
Ohio simply cannot afford to continue to graduate so many high school students, especially those from high poverty backgrounds, who lack the skills needed for 21st century jobs. In the emerging economy, two out of three positions will require some type of post-secondary marketable credential.
One proven strategy for increasing the success rates of high poverty students in terms of college access and completion is to increase significantly the number of early colleges. Other states, such as North Carolina and Texas, have done this with remarkable success. Ohio needs to more fully embrace the strategy as well.
The early college movement began in Ohio in 2003 in Dayton, with the Dayton Early College Academy. There are now 10 early colleges in the state, with six new ones on the drawing board. All but one serves high poverty populations.
The facts speak to the power of the early college model.
Almost all early college graduates earn some type of college credit before they graduate from high school. Approximately 69 percent of all high school graduates enroll in college. By contrast, in 2009-10, almost 86 percent of all early college graduates enrolled in college after their high school graduation.
Nearly one–quarter of the early college graduates in 2009 also earned an associate’s degree (or two years of college) at the time of their high school graduation.
Ohio’s early colleges are remarkably successful by any measure, yet they serve the populations often “untouched” by current traditional educational structures.
Ohio needs to both celebrate the success of the early college educational innovation and find ways to rapidly expand the initiative so the state has the intellectual capital it needs for economic success and to ensure more young people have the skills and credentials for personal prosperity.
This post is part of a series celebrating Early College High School Week 2012. Read other posts from this series:
- Early College High Schools: Creating Systemic Change
- Early College High School: Changing Lives
- Early Colleges Demystify College Experience for First-Generation College Goers
Guest post by Thomas J. Lasley II, a current professor and former dean (1998-2010) of the University of Dayton School of Education and Allied Professions. He is also executive director of Learn to Earn Dayton.