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NC's Early Colleges Expand Opportunities

Bill Harrison - Chairman of the NC State Board of Education

April 8, 2011 - North Carolina places a high value on making sure that all students graduate from high school ready for college and careers. Gov. Beverly Perdue and the State Board of Education have that goal at the top of their education agenda. Schools across the state are focused as never before on making that happen.

New results indicate that North Carolina is leading the way in expanding opportunities for students to earn significant college credit while still in high school - a sure-fire means to reach the Holy Grail of college and career readiness. More than half the students who graduated from North Carolina's early college high schools in 2010 also finished with an associate's degree - significantly more than their peers nationally and in Texas, which along with North Carolina, leads the nation in the development of the innovative approach to high school.

A study published last month by Jobs for the Future, an organization that leads the national Early College High School Initiative, found that a third of the 900 early college graduates in Texas earned associate's degrees. Jobs for the Future estimates that about 25 percent of early college graduates nationally earn an associate's degree or two years of college credit while in high school.

In North Carolina last year, 56 percent of students who graduated from early colleges on community college campuses earned associate's degrees along with their high school diploma, according to the North Carolina New Schools Project, which helps to develop and support most early colleges in the state. Those kinds of outcomes are all the more significant when you consider that the state's early colleges as a group last year graduated 90 percent of the students who entered as freshmen. The schools share a common mission to serve minority and low-income students, who are often underrepresented in college.

Gov. Perdue believes that students in North Carolina should have more opportunities to earn college credit while in high school. We know that not only are more students capable and eager to get a head start on college or career training, but it's also more affordable for families and it's better for the state's future. Like the rest of us, students are motivated by concrete goals. That helps keep students in school and on track for success.

Gov. Perdue's Career and College Promise streamlines the state's existing routes that high school students can take to earn college credit while also recognizing the innovative approaches, like early colleges, that the state is helping to pioneer to give more students a leg up on college or other post-secondary education.

A clear focus on college readiness in early college high schools has opened real opportunities for students - especially those who might not consider college as an option - to attain college credit along with the skills and confidence necessary to continue past high school.

North Carolina is already on the map as the national leader in the development of early college high schools. The state's 71 schools - most of which are on the campuses of community colleges - account for about a third of all early colleges nationwide. And while that number speaks volumes about the state's willingness to invest in education innovation, it would have far less meaning without results. Since the first of the schools opened in 2005, evidence about student outcomes show early colleges are an innovation that is making a real difference for students and the state as a whole. The new numbers are only the latest promising evidence.

When it comes to graduating students who are ready for college and career, high schools across the state are making significant progress. Innovative schools such as early colleges are helping to show how different approaches and strategies can ensure that all students graduate prepared for the future.

Bill Harrison
Chairman, State Board of Education

Written by: Sylvia Roldan
Posted: Apr 14, 2011 by Sylvia Roldan

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