NC LEADS NATION IN NUMBER OF EARLY COLLEGE HIGH SCHOOLS
Success of Schools is Highlighted Nationwide During Early College High School Week
As the inaugural classes at North Carolina's first early college high schools prepare to graduate in the coming weeks, the success of this innovative approach will be recognized across the nation during Early College High School Week 2010, May 3-9. The weeklong celebration raises the profile of the break-the-mold schools that open college access to students who might otherwise stop short of college or even high school graduation. The schools, aimed at students typically under-represented in college, enable students to earn a high school diploma and an associate's degree or two years of transferable college credit - tuition free - within four or five years.
No state has made a larger investment than North Carolina in these hybrid public schools, most of which are located on community college and university campuses. The first 13 early college high schools in the state opened their doors in 2005. This number has since grown to 70 schools, which account for a third of the 210 early colleges nationwide. North Carolina's 10,500 students represent about one of every five students enrolled this year in early college across the country.
"North Carolina is a leader in educational innovation, and new approaches to high school are key to making sure every student graduates ready for college, a career or technical training," said Gov. Beverly Perdue.
The state's early college high schools are run as partnerships between local school districts and institutions of higher education with support from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction and the North Carolina New Schools Project, a non-profit organization. The schools are demonstrating strong results, with few dropouts, high student achievement and passing rates on college courses that often exceed those of college-age students.
"The early college numbers tell the story about innovation and student success," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson.
Early college high schools blend high school and college to challenge and support students and to ensure that they succeed in tackling college-level work. Also, the schools lift what can be a significant financial barrier for many students and their families at a time when the average cost of one year of public college nationally exceeds $6,000. The combined tuition savings last year for the nearly 7,000 students in early college high schools on North Carolina's community college campuses reached an estimated $3.6 million.
"These schools are making a significant difference for students across North Carolina," said Tony Habit, president of the North Carolina New Schools Project. "They share the same high expectation that every student graduates and every student graduates well-prepared for college and for work."
For Christopher Hubbard, who will graduate later this month from GTCC Early/Middle College in Guilford County, five years of early college gave him a clear sense of direction and a strong career objective as a graphic artist.
"If I came out of a four-year school, I probably would have been still trying to figure out what to do," Hubbard said. "Truthfully, I probably wouldn't have gone to college."
Now, Hubbard, who will be receiving an associate's degree in advertising and graphic design, plans to pursue a four-year degree at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma or an arts school in Manhattan. He is one of 19 students graduating from the Guilford school with an associate's degree.
"Early college high schools play an important role in economic development in our state as they are preparing our future workforce for success in both higher education and jobs in the global economy," said State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison.
To help sharpen that focus on regional economic needs, the legislature last year created the Joining Our Business and Schools (JOBS) Commission, led by Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, who as a state senator authored the 2003 Innovative Education Act that allowed for the creation of early colleges in North Carolina.
"I'm excited about this opportunity to strengthen our high school curricula and make education more relevant for students," said Dalton. "They'll be getting a leg up on 21st century jobs, and our employers will benefit from a better-prepared workforce.
An ongoing study of early college high schools in North Carolina is finding that students in the schools are more likely to be making progress to college than similar students attending other high schools.
The study's first-year analysis found that by the end of 9th grade, 83 percent of early college students had successfully completed Algebra I, compared to 67 percent of students attending other schools. To be on track for college, students need to have completed English I and Algebra I by the end of 9th grade.
Other measures show promising outcomes for students:
- Early college high schools in North Carolina had a combined dropout rate of 0.7 percent in 2008-09, compared to a statewide dropout rate of 4.27 percent.
- The dropout rate for 9th graders in the early college high schools in 2008-09 was 0.2 percent, compared to 4.78 percent for all high schools statewide.
- Based on aggregate performance-composite scores on state End-of-Course exams in 2009, 86 percent of the early college high schools outperformed comparison high schools in their school districts.
- Almost half the early college high schools in 2008-09 had a performance composite of 80 percent or better, compared to less than a fifth of other high schools in the state.
- Seventy-five percent of all college courses taken by early college high school students in 2008-09 on community college campuses received a grade of C or better, compared to 70 percent of courses taken by other college students.
2009-10 North Carolina Early College High Schools By District
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.
For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.