The successful launch of an early college program depends on the dedication and abilities of the staff involved. Many roles across the education sector are categorized in one of two ways: strategy or on-the-ground implementation. However, to meet the logistical, programmatic, and strategic demands of early college programs, it is critical to eliminate the “either/or” mentality when staffing and instead build a “both/and” team. This kind of team can both create a vision for the program and keep that program running through day-to-day challenges, ensuring the success of the partnership between institutions and ensure student success.
The first six years of C-Town Pathways clearly demonstrated that a successful early college model requires a dedicated team that can both create a vision for the program as well as keep that program running through day-to-day challenges, ensuring its success. Building this type of both/and team requires three major considerations:
- Building a dedicated staff whose sole focus is the early college program
- Designing a structure to account for key needs unique to early college programming, including work-based learning and dual enrollment
- Planning for continued growth
As the CHS program has grown over the past six years, it has reaped the benefits of an increased focus on the success of early college students through the hard work of staff members who are able to switch between focusing on the day-to-day details of managing the program and big-picture strategy building. Because staff spends each day working directly with students and contributing to the larger visioning conversations with the team, CHS’s early college program has grown to support roughly 125 students through three thoughtfully crafted pathways. None of this success would be possible without its both/and team.
The Series: Three Big Lessons in Six Years
Three Big Lessons in Six Years is both a reflection on the past and a look ahead to the future at Charlestown High School and other early college programs across the country. The purpose of this series is to document essential design elements, operational structures, and critical support for students to be successful. It also presents an authentic view of the troubleshooting required to overcome key initial challenges.
In documenting the clarity that comes with hindsight, but also the inevitability of learning as you go, our hope is that educators feel empowered to take informed risks while avoiding some of the growing pains and challenges CHS experienced along the way. This series was made possible by support from the Linde Family Foundation.
Lesson 1: Set a Vision to Guide the Future
Learn how the leaders involved in the launch of C-Town Pathways successfully brought together partners around a shared vision and non-negotiables.
Lesson 2: Build a Framework That Allows for Structure and Flexibility
Learn how the team at Charlestown High School created a structured early college pathways experience that also allows for flexibility and individualization of students’ early college journeys.
About C-Town Pathways
As part of their goal to build the youth talent pipeline for the information technology industry, SAP , a global software company and JFF partner, approached CHS to sponsor and co-design the school’s first early college pathway, Information Technology. Partnership and generous funding from SAP propelled the launch of C-Town Pathways and has helped to sustain and grow the initiative through the present day.
Since the launch of the Information Technology Pathway in 2015, the school has added two additional pathways, Business and Health, and enrollment has grown to roughly 125 students across grades 9 to 12.
JFF’s headquarters in Boston is only a few miles from CHS. We’ve led early college high school initiatives across the country for nearly 20 years and have been fortunate to serve as a close partner and intermediary supporting the work at CHS from day one. We’ve worked side by side with CHS, BHCC, and SAP staff to convene meetings, develop strategic plans, design programming, and steward funding, and have even attended field trips and ordered pizza for students. This role has provided us unique insight into the type of leaders, mindsets, and work necessary to stand up early college pathways.
In addition to setting hundreds of students on a track to postsecondary education with dozens of free college credits in hand, C-Town Pathways has served as a case study for the state’s new early college high school designation process. But even as C-Town Pathways enrollment has grown and become more formally embedded in the school’s structure and culture, it continues to rely on the iterative learning process that has been central to its success.