Early College, Future Success
6.2.10 – Nestled in the rolling hills that once bustled with tobacco farms and textile mills, rural Rockingham County, N.C., “is in the middle of nowhere, but the middle of everything,” says Louise Uziel, the principal of Rockingham Early College High School.
Early College, Future Success
By Lawrence Hardy
American School Board Journal
Nestled in the rolling hills that once bustled with tobacco farms and textile mills, rural Rockingham County, N.C., “is in the middle of nowhere, but the middle of everything,” says Louise Uziel, the principal of Rockingham Early College High School. “In the middle of nowhere” because the tobacco and textile industries have imploded since the early 1990s, with jobs disappearing or moving overseas. Unemployment is well into the double digits; and functional illiteracy, once close to 40 percent, is falling too slowly.
And what about being “in the middle of everything?” Rockingham County is two hours from the mountains, three hours from the beach, and five hours from Washington, D.C.
Another reason: Rockingham Early College High School, a place where 152 ninth- and 10th-graders are getting a taste of postsecondary education and more. If the students stay with the program, now two years old, they will earn a high school diploma and an associate degree in five years and be on course to join the new economy that is emerging in North Carolina and across the nation.
“By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world,” President Obama told Congress in his February budget address. Many believe that goal, and the related one of ensuring that almost everyone has some college experience, is critical to renewing the nation’s economic competitiveness.
It begins here, in places like Rockingham County — “the middle of everything,” indeed.
Confidence and motivation
Accelerating teens through high school and their first two years of college may seem counterintuitive, especially given that anywhere from 40 percent to more than 60 percent of community college students require remediation, a problem that is especially true for low-income and minority students. In a 2008 report called Innovations in College Readiness, researcher and consultant Thad Nodine noted that just 65 percent of low-income students even complete high school, compared with 91 percent of middle- and upper-class students.
Yet, according to research by Kati Haycock of the Education Trust, and Patte Barth, a former Education Trust staffer who now heads NSBA’s Center for Public Education, “high school students in the lowest quartile of performance post higher test-score gains when placed in more rigorous courses.” And, “with proper supports, low-achieving students are as likely to pass challenging, rigorous classes as they are the watered-down courses in which they are typically placed,” Nodine wrote.
Those findings are at the heart of the early college and middle college movement, which now comprises more than 300 programs nationwide.
“Once you create a culture in the high school that everyone can go [to college], then you know what teachers expect of kids, what kids expect of themselves, and what parents expect of their kids,” Nodine told ASBJ. “It gives them confidence and motivation to know they can succeed in a college class.”
Early college (which typically starts in ninth grade) and middle college (generally beginning in 11th grade) are the latest twists on a phenomenon that began in the 1950s with Advanced Placement courses. Combined with other programs, these dual-enrollment initiatives resulted in more than 800,000 high school students — about 5 percent of total enrollment — taking college-level courses in 2002-03, according to the Jobs for the Future (JFF) report, On Ramp for College: A State Policymaker’s Guide to Dual Enrollment, by Nancy Hoffman, Joel Vargas, and Janet Santos.
In the late 1960s, an initiative called Simon’s Rock began enrolling advanced high school students in college and later became part of Bard College. The significance of the early and middle college programs, which began in 1974 with the founding of the Middle College High School at LaGuardia Community College in New York, was the focus on students from underserved populations, Nodine says.
The Early College program began in 2002 with organizational support from JFF and the financial backing of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other benefactors. About 200 Early College programs now are supported by the foundations and 13 partner organizations, among them City University of New York, the Foundation for California Community Colleges, and the North Carolina New Schools Project.
The New Schools Project is a statewide program to improve secondary education in North Carolina and prepare students for college careers. Its tenets, which Uziel says are her program’s bible — include challenging standards, personalization of education, “meaningful class work connected to life after high school, close teamwork among teachers, and strong relationships between teachers and students.”
North Carolina and Texas are among the most innovative states when it comes to tailoring state policies to support dual-enrollment programs, Nodine says. California, Massachusetts, and New York also have promising initiatives. But overall, observers say high schools and community colleges have not collaborated. They exist in separate worlds, defined by their cultures, their funding streams, and their academic requirements.
“We have a split system of education, where you have a K-12 system that isn’t connected to the postsecondary system,” Nodine says.
High schools need to be concerned not just with graduating students, but preparing them for further education or the work force, Nodine says. Universities and community colleges should work more closely with school districts to ensure that their students are prepared to do college-level work.
The big question, says Michael Webb, associate vice president for the Early College High School Initiative, is: “How do you align the high school and college curriculum so they make sense and provide for what’s next?”
Challenges for colleges
Community colleges also face serious challenges, beginning with funding. In a 2009 Brookings Institution policy brief, University of Wisconsin professor Sara Goldrick-Rab and three co-authors note that community colleges, on average, rely on states and localities for nearly 60 percent of their budgets.
Amid the current recession, those entities are suffering. Federal spending (including financial aid) accounts for just 15 percent of community college revenue, compared to nearly three times that for four-year institutions. The full- time equivalents: $2,600 per student for four-year institutions and $790 per student for community colleges.
Goldrick-Rab and her colleagues call for doubling the level of direct federal support to community colleges, from $2 billion to $4 billion a year, with funding based on performance and the level of low-income and minority students they serve. In March, President Obama signed legislation that would provide $36 billion in new Pell Grant money to disadvantaged students enrolled in two- and four-year institutions over the next 10 years.
Who are the students enrolling in community colleges? Many are students just out of high school who want to earn work certificates or associate degrees, or perhaps need to enroll in remedial courses. Yet half of the students don’t enter community college directly out of high school. Thirty-nine percent are the first in their family to go to college. Eighty percent have jobs.
“The students in community colleges are the most vulnerable in postsecondary education,” Brian Pusser, a professor of higher education at the University of Virginia, said recently at a forum sponsored by the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. “They bring the fewest resources, and the least preparation, and they have the most to gain of anyone in the postsecondary system.”
In a recent report, Re-Imagining Community Colleges in the 21st Century, Pusser and John Levin, director and principal investigator of the California Community College Cooperative, say community colleges must do a better job of focusing on the varying needs of their students. It is an interesting recommendation, given that community colleges generally accept all applicants, do not focus on research, and are sometimes considered the most egalitarian institutions in higher education.
But Levin says community colleges have not done enough to reduce the income and social disparities between racial and economic groups. Indeed, the gap between the rich and poor is only widening.
“We have not made the gains that we could be making,” Levin says.
Levin has been involved with community colleges his entire academic life. In the 1970s, he was teaching at Douglas College in British Columbia, whose motto — ”Students at the Center”
Enter your email to subscribe to daily Education News!
- Education Technology
- Teachers Unions
- Charter Schools
- California Education
- Education Research
- Online Education
- New York Education
- UK Education
- STEM Education
- School Choice
- Cost of College
- Education Funding
- New York City Schools
- Julia Steiny
- Florida Education
- Education Reform
- Parent Involvement
- Texas Education
- Los Angeles Schools
- Math Education
- C. M. Rubin
- Obama Administration
- Chicago Schools
- 2012 Election
- Pennsylvania Education
- New Jersey Education
- Tennessee Education
- UK Higher Education
- Teacher Training
- College Admissions
- Early Childhood Education
- Louisiana Education
- School Health
- Ohio Education
- Teacher Evaluations
- Illinois Education
- Michigan Education
- Arne Duncan
- UK Politics
Plan your career as an educator using our free online datacase of useful information.
- Select a City Subject
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Asheville
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Banner Elk
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Boiling Springs
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Charlotte
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Concord
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Cullowhee
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Dallas
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Durham
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Elizabeth City
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Greenville
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Hamlet
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Henderson
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Hickory
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Jamestown
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Lumberton
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Morehead City
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Murphy
- Forensic Nursing Schools in New Bern
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Raleigh
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Rocky Mount
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Spruce Pine
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Tarboro
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Washington
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Wentworth
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Whiteville
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Wilkesboro
- Forensic Nursing Schools in Winterville