Dayton Early College Academy opened in 2003 as the first early college high school in Ohio and one of just 21 in the nation. A partnership between Dayton Public Schools and the University of Dayton, DECA aspired to offer urban students a better alternative to traditional schools. The school would combine high school and college course work, create hands-on learning
experiences driven by individual interests and foster close relationships among teachers, students and families.
The founders of the school earned widespread attention for their ambitious goals and innovative model, but even fully articulating, let alone realizing, their vision proved daunting. Finding ways to serve both average and high-achieving students, while helping the many who struggled with academic obstacles and equally troubling challenges in their personal lives, demanded tireless dedication, constant reinvention and unprecedented sacrifices by DECA’s staff.
Few disputed DECA’s remarkable potential, but supporters and skeptics alike closely monitored the school for signs of progress or peril. Laboring under this intense scrutiny, with so much at stake and only their own ideas to guide them, a hopeful corps of novice teachers, veteran educators and anxious families launched a daring experiment to create an entirely new kind of high school.