ESEA Reauthorization Marks Pivotal Moment for Early College High Schools

KnowledgeWorks applauds U.S. Congress and President on Every Student Succeeds Act


Thanks to the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act, more high school students will be able to get a jumpstart on college through early college high school and dual and concurrent enrollment opportunities.

KnowledgeWorks and EdWorks, in partnership with Bard College, Jobs for the Future and the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, congratulate the United States Congress and President on passing the Every Student Succeeds Act. This is a monumental step in recognizing the important role of early college high schools and other forms of dual and concurrent enrollment in developing a seamless transition between high school and college, while also preparing students for success in higher education.

“At a time when accessibility, affordability and more importantly, attainment, are of national concern, bold support of early college high schools through ESEA reauthorization will help scale this high impact approach to teaching and learning,” said KnowledgeWorks President and CEO Judy Peppler. “For hundreds of thousands of low-income, first-generation students who may not have seen college as an option, early college high schools can offer a promising start to set students on a path toward a college degree.”

The Every Student Succeeds Act, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, identifies early college high schools and other forms of dual and concurrent enrollment as key strategies in preparing students for college. It does this in multiple ways:

  • By providing more flexibility, states, districts and local schools can implement innovative strategies, such as early college high schools and other dual and concurrent enrollment programs that improve rigor in secondary schools and help students effectively transition to higher education.
  • ESSA enables states and local education agencies to use federal funds to support college coursework for students attending schools in need of improvement (Title I) and high poverty schools (Title I), for low-income students attending private schools (Title I), for teacher professional development (Title II), for English language acquisition (Title III), and for academic enrichment (Title IV). It also incorporates student participation in college coursework in local school and state report cards, as a component of local school district plans to transition students to postsecondary education, and as a potential indicator in state accountability systems.
  • ESSA includes, for the first time in federal statute, a definition of early college high schools and dual and concurrent enrollment programs to establish consistent terminology for this work.

“Early college high schools are a powerful vehicle for increasing the quality of our public education system and helping students seamlessly transition to higher education,” said Leon Botstein, President of Bard College. “Early college high schools are proven to engage students and significantly increase their chances of completing college degrees, and with less debt.  We are pleased that Congress and the President have chosen to recognize the value of early college education.”

Together, the new provisions enable states and local school districts to use early colleges and other forms of dual and concurrent enrollment as a strategy for improving high school graduation rates, smoothing the transition between high school and college, and ensuring that more students, particularly those from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds, are set up for postsecondary success.

Through Early College High School (ECHS) models, which typically focus on traditionally underserved populations, students and their families have the opportunity to save time and money toward a postsecondary credential by offering a jumpstart on a college degree. As partnerships between schools and local colleges, high school students are able to earn tuition-free college credits up to an Associate’s degree while simultaneously completing requirements for the high school diploma.

Through EDWorks model, which has been field tested in 50 school districts across eight states, 79 percent of students complete at least one year of college credit before they graduate high school. In addition, one in three earns an associate’s degree or 60 hours of transferable college credit.

About KnowledgeWorks

KnowledgeWorks is a national nonprofit organization advancing a future of learning that ensures each student graduates ready for what’s next. For 20 years, we’ve been partnering with states, communities and leaders across the country to imagine, build and sustain vibrant learning communities. Through evidence-based practices and a commitment to equitable outcomes, we’re creating the future of learning, together.