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Early College Design Services

Helping Districts Reinvent High Schools for Postsecondary Success

Implementing and managing school redesigns that combine high school and college to enable struggling students to graduate with college credit and the tools for postsecondary success.

Caesar Mickens Jr.
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Click for the success story from South Texas, or read a profile of a STEM early college school in Massachusetts.

Success Story: Dayton Early College Academy

“We start with the mindset that you are going to college. From the moment you get off the elevator, that’s what you see. It’s our tradition, our expectation. Our walls are filled with college acceptance letters and pictures of college alumni. We hold them to high expectations, and it all begins in the classroom.”
— Dana Berry, DECA college liaison

Established in 2003 under Jobs for the Future’s Early College High School Initiative, the Dayton Early College Academy is one of the nation’s first early college high schools, serving roughly 400 middle and high school students from populations underrepresented in higher education, unprepared academically to meet college readiness standards, and unable to pay for college. Working closely with DECA, we helped develop and implement a performance management system that measures student progress toward mastery of college-readiness skills.

Located on the campus of the University of Dayton, DECA began as a district school, the result of a partnership between the University of Dayton and the local urban school district, then reorganized to become a public charter school in 2007.

DECA students graduate by completing a series of six “gateways” in which they demonstrate academic and college-preparatory skills, personal growth, and a commitment to the community through service, job shadows, and internships. The school design was influenced by the Met, an alternative school in Providence, Rhode Island, and emphasizes demonstration of student mastery through performance tasks. The steps in each student’s personal learning plan are cumulative, requiring students to demonstrate and reflect on the progress they have made since their previous gateway

and to look ahead, deepening their strengths and addressing their weaknesses. Students proceed through their gateways at their own pace. Starting in the junior year, students take classes at the University of Dayton or Sinclair Community College.

Teachers routinely build student choice into the school day, believing that students who have a say in their learning invest in it more. Dante, a senior at DECA, said: “One of the things they tell you here is to do what you love and love what you do. Having choices helps make that happen, even if it’s just choosing the side you’ll take in a classroom debate.”

Jobs for the Future provided DECA with strategic, data-driven support by developing a performance management system that tracks student progress toward meeting academic, career, and personal standards and goals. In addition, JFF has helped DECA develop into a demonstration site that models use of our Common Instructional Framework for visiting educators. DECA credits this framework of six core college readiness strategies as essential to student development and college readiness.


Dayton Early College Academy

  • Grades 7-12 school

  • 426 students

All students are from a high-poverty neighborhood. Admission is by lottery.

  • 74% receive free or reduced-priced lunch
  • 88% are students of color
  • 87% are first generation college-bound
  • 100% of 2011 graduates were college bound.

  • 84% of DECA graduates are in college or have graduated.

Read more about attending an academic residency at DECA.

For more information on our services, please contact Caesar Mickens.

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