High school students today often are criticized for having a lax attitude about academics. But the success of the early/middle college model in North Carolina demonstrates that students can excel when they are challenged with rigorous work and supported by caring teachers.
North Carolina has more early colleges than any other state, with 74. Guilford County, in the north-central part of the state, has the highest concentration of early/middle colleges with a ninth school of this kind opening this month. With this approach, high school students can earn college credit, sometimes up to 60 credits (more often at early colleges), along with their diploma.
With smaller classes, committed teachers, high expectations, and exposure to college coursework, students are rising to the occasion. Last spring, four early colleges in Guilford had 100 percent graduation rates and three others had rates above 90 percent. And, the county overall has experienced significant improvement in its high school completion rates.
(For a complete story on lessons and results of early/middle college in Guilford County click here.)
There is much to be learned from the collaboration in Guilford County among the district educators, higher education administrators, and the greater community. Communication has been facilitated with formal advisory groups and all parties have had to be flexible to accommodate the melding of the different systems.
Teachers involved in early colleges are committed to going above and beyond to make sure students perform. The colleges see value in working with high school students to best prepare them to be successful once they reach campus. Business leaders have worked to inform the community on the importance of investing in education to meet workforce needs and to respect alternative approaches needed to engage all students.
That's not to say there haven't been problems. But when there have been issues, education leaders have worked together to solve them.
There is an ongoing willingness to share information to improve the schools in North Carolina. A principal recently started a bi-monthly Twitter chat to connect state administrators and leaders. (Check it out here.)
It will be interesting to follow what's happening in Guilford County in the next 10 years. There will likely be more districts looking at this approach as administrators seek innovative ways to get more students to complete high school and on sure footing for college.