Eleven years after the Early College High School Initiative launched, the early college movement has achieved a great deal. There are now more than 75,000 students in early college schools across the country who graduate high school and enroll in college at far higher rates than their peers. Nearly all of them earn college credit before high school graduation, and nearly a quarter graduate with Associate’s degree in hand.
As we reflect on early college’s impact, JFF is focused on expanding early college opportunities to far more students across the country, particularly those in comprehensive high schools in low-income urban and rural areas—the students whose current odds of graduating from college are unacceptably low.
Late last year, JFF received a tremendous opportunity to expand early college to many more of these students through a five-year, $15 million federal Investing in Opportunity (i3) grant. We and our partners—Denver Public Schools, Educate Texas, Brownsville ISD, and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD—will spread the early college design to 30,000 new students. Together, we are redesigning high schools and middle schools so that all students get engaging, college-ready instruction and complete at least 12 college credits by graduation at no cost to their families. Because of the success of the early college movement, JFF and its partners were chosen as one of 20 grantees out of 727 applicants.
Scaling early college from a small schools concept to a systemic high school reform strategy is bold and complex. But we believe it’s well worth it to reach the students with the most need. Both Denver and South Texas are fast-growing regions with high numbers of low-income and minority students. Both are ideal places to scale early college because of the strong college partnerships and dual enrollment programs they have in place and the educators’ vision to transform their students’ futures and their community.
This is an exciting time for early college as it takes root in the large schools and districts serving the students most underrepresented in higher education. Over the five-year i3 grant, we anticipate significant outcomes for students in the early college schools, including a 10-point higher rate of graduation than comparison students and 90 percent of high school graduates completing college courses.
As we celebrate Early College High School Week, we are more energized than ever for our work with districts to adopt the best practices and school designs that the Early College High School Initiative has pioneered.
Photograph courtesy of Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA), 2012