Early college offers options
Students in early colleges will outperform traditional high school students in post-secondary education, a new study found.
Julie Edmunds, program director for secondary school reform at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, tracked high school-aged teens from 2006 to college.
She compared regular high school to early college and found students more engaged in learning, accounting for better attendance and lower suspension rates; successful in applied skills and courses needed for college; and involved in powerful relationships with effective instruction and greater academic, emotional and social support.
Stan Winborne, Granville County Schools spokesman, said early college students in his district perform better.
“It’s just an amazing opportunity to get ahead further than your traditional high school counterparts do,” he said. “The graduation rate at the early college is much higher, and the dropout rate is lower.”
Vance County Early College High School also sees more students graduate than does the district, which had the lowest rate in the state.
In the 2013-2014 school year, the school graduated 93.5 percent of its senior class, compared to the district’s rate of 64.9 percent in 2012-2013, according to a four-year cohort report from the North Carolina Department of Public Schools.
Assistant Superintendent Trixie Brooks said early college is an influential part of Vance County and gives students a head start.
“Because of the structure of our early college program, many of them walk way with college credits,” she said. “That is just the way the program is designed.”
Early college is a tuition-free, alternative learning program where students can obtain college credit, a diploma, associate degree or any combination of the three. North Carolina is home to more than 75 early college high schools — a third of the 240 early colleges around the nation.
Most early colleges target students who are underrepresented in post-secondary institutions, including those who are low-income or who would be the first in their family to attend a university, according to Edmunds’ study.
“The early college model is having a positive impact on all students, and, in some cases, it is reducing gaps between different populations,” Edmunds said in a statement.
Local students in the early college structure are performing better in some curriculum areas, according to the North Carolina School Report Card.
During the 2012-2013 academic year, 65.1 percent of Vance County Early College students taking English end-of-course test passed compared to the district’s average — 31.9 percent —and the state’s average — 51.2 percent.
In Granville County High School, 74.5 percent passed compared to 46.2 percent in its district.
Warren County fell below the state average with 47.8 percent but beat its district’s average by about 5 percentage points.
Early college students in the three districts still fall behind their districts and state in math end-of-grade testing.
Edmund said positive trends could start to effect traditional teaching methods.
“Early colleges are changing some of the dialogue and thinking about high school,” she said in a statement. “It’s about re-envisioning what it takes to successfully prepare students for college and today’s jobs.”
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