How do you get more students to graduate from high school, earn a college degree, and find fulfilling careers? For many schools the answer is adding a college and career readiness program that gives students more opportunities and perspective for their future.
In Guilford County, North Carolina, an early-college program has been used for over 10 years and has been proven to increase student success rates, according to the Education Week article, “Early-College Model Brings Lessons, Results in N.C.” North Carolina has 74 early colleges, of which Guilford County has nine, making it the district with the most early colleges in the state. In North Carolina, the graduation rate in 2011 was 77.9 percent. However, for schools using the early-college model, the graduation rate was 91.2 percent. Between 2006 and 2012, early colleges have brought the county’s high school completion rate from 74 percent to 84.5 percent.
In most early-college high schools students spend the first two years earning their high school diploma and their final two years earning their associate’s degree. In the article, Joel Vargas, a vice president at Jobs For the Future Early College Initiative, attributes the success of the early-college model to two main factors:
- The “Power of Place”: Students get introduced to the college environment and learn first-hand how to succeed in their new environment.
- A financial incentive: Students get two years of college for free.
Using a college preparation program in high school not only gets students ready for college; for some it is the first time they consider that a college and a career could be part of their future.
“I’m a Latino,” said Robert Villareal, principal of the new West Generation Academy in Denver, Colorado, in the story Hopes High For West High Makeover. “When I went through high school and then when I went to enroll at college and they asked me what my major was, I didn’t have any idea what other professions there were. My father was a concrete worker. I had no idea. My father never wore a tie! But by going through our model, the kids can conceivably explore different professions and have an idea of professions they don’t even know right now exist.”
For a growing number of low- and high-income schools a college and career emphasis has been a popular new adoption to battle plummeting student success rates. However, unlike some of these schools with high fail rates, some schools don’t have the bandwidth to overhaul their school, and for some it’s not a necessary move. Also, early-college high schools aren’t without their critics. Success in college takes more than book smarts, it takes a level of maturity, responsibility, and social preparedness. Some believe students are cutting into the social growth teens have when swapping their last two years of high school for the first two years of college.
There are many ways students can explore their passions, possible college majors, and career options even if they don’t attend an early-college high school. Internships, community service, or reading a book like LifeBound’s MAJORING IN THE REST OF YOUR LIFE encourage students to ask questions about what they are doing now, what they want to be doing in the future, and what they need to do to get where they want to be.
“Early-College Model Brings Lessons, Results in N.C.” by Caralee J. Adams. 16 August 2012. Education Week. Accessed on 21 August 2012. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/08/16/01earlymiddle.h32.html?tkn=UROFVh99Yfjga5KuXEpitWsaywZmNaokWSLI&cmp=clp-edweek
“Hopes High For West High Makeover,” by Jenny Brudin. 20 August 2012. Colorado Public Radio. Accessed on 21 August 2012. http://www.cpr.org/#load_article%7CHopes_High_For_West_High_Makeover