Why early college high schools lead dual enrollment programs

Early college high schools can boost a school's college-going culture and better prepare students for college-level coursework
By: | February 24, 2020
Early college high schools stand out among K-12 dual enrollment programs in the factors that promote student success in higher education, according to several years of study by the American Institutes for Research.Progress made by K12 students in Florida’s Orange and Osceola counties is tracked in partnership with Valencia College. Educators share data to spot early signs of potential or academic struggle.

Early college high schools stand out among K-12 dual enrollment programs in the factors that promote student success in higher education, according to several years of study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR).

Early college high schools can boost a school’s college-going culture, better prepare students for college-level coursework and make higher education more affordable, according to a new AIR policy brief, “The Lasting Benefits of Early College High Schools.”

A recent long-term analysis shows that, within six years after expected high school graduation, early college students were nearly three times as likely as other students to complete an associate’s degree or certificate.

And within four years after expected high school graduation, about one in five early college students had earned a bachelor’s degree, compared to about one in 10 of other students, the AIR research shows.

These outcomes were similar for students of all different ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic status, the research shows.


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“Early colleges are dual enrollment on steroids. Providing opportunities for high-achieving students to take advanced placement or college courses and earn college credits during high school is great, but it may lead to disparities in opportunities and outcomes within schools,” senior researcher Kristina Zeise wrote in the study. “Early colleges integrate the high school and college academic program for all students in a school.”

In Georgia, however, a bill is moving through state government that would restrict dual enrollment, the Athens Banner-Herald reported.

Gov. Brian Kemp seeks to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the state budget and the growing number of dual enrollment students could cause the program to run out of money, according to the Banner-Herald.

Costs for dual enrollment have grown from around $23 million when the program launched in 2015 to around $140 million in 2018, according to the newspaper.

Dual-enrollment determination

Meanwhile, K-12 and higher education leaders across the country are working together more closely on a range of student success initiatives, from coordinated curricula to professional development to expansion of early college high schools, University Business reported in 2017.

These higher ed and K12 leaders hope to create a more cohesive learning system that produces students who are more prepared for the rigors of college and careers.

“It’s a recognition that the problems K12 and colleges are trying to solve are problems that span the continuum,” Rudy Crew, president of Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, told UB.


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Medgar Evers’ Pipeline Project offers faculty-led workshops on Medgar Evers’ curriculum so K12 teachers in Brooklyn have a deeper understanding of the skills they need to keep students out of remedial courses

Reducing the number of students who need to take remedial college math is also a driving force behind “M-cubed” a comprehensive partnership launched in 2014 by Milwaukee Public Schools, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Milwaukee Area Technical College.

And in Florida, Valencia College in Orlando has helped the nearby School District of Osceola County forecast how the youngest students will perform before they encounter problems that can derail their education. One metric is third-grade attendance. Students who miss the first day of school and who are absent several times during the first month of the year are at greater risk for being held back a grade.

This information led the coalition to devote more resources to the region’s early-learning and after-school programs.

“It’s all about thinking of it as one system that students are progressing along, and not having such an abrupt disruption as they move from 12th grade to college,” Joyce C. Romano, Valencia’s vice president for educational partnerships, told UB.


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