By Mamadou Ndiaye and Rebecca E. Wolfe, for Phi Delta Kappan
Science teacher Cierra Swopes has a unique perspective on taking college courses while still in high school. In 2008, she was in the second graduating class of Dayton Early College Academy (DECA). Six years later, Swopes got the job of her dreams: teaching chemistry at this nontraditional charter high school in Dayton, Ohio.
“As an early college student, I was privileged enough to graduate from high school with an associate degree,” said Swopes, who started taking college courses at Sinclair Community College during her freshman year at DECA, when she was only 13 years old. That experience was a bit intimidating at first, said Swopes, but she quickly adjusted with support from her DECA teachers, particularly her chemistry teacher.
After graduating from DECA, Swopes went to Miami University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and earth science education. Today she works alongside the very DECA teacher, now a curriculum specialist for chemistry, who gave her so much encouragement in her student days.
Swopes’ story shows what is possible through early college designs — high schools and colleges joining forces to work together to create a path to college access and completion for millions of low-income and first-generation students. Designed initially as a small schools strategy, early college designs are now being tested as whole-school and whole-district reform strategies and have been successfully adapted for dropout recovery programming as well. They have become a path to four-year degrees as well as to short-term credentials with immediate value in the labor market — and thus have the potential to be a game changer in our national effort to increase college access and completion for all.
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This article was re-posted here in conjunction with Early College High School Week, an annual celebration of early college success nationwide. Follow news about the week at #ECweek16.
Note: The schools are designed to provide 45 credits. Paramount not the parent company. It is the Wonderful Company, and the number of schools has grown since the article was written. The data in the article are from their first year and this is now their third year. Other numbers and details may have changed since the article was first written.