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Early-College High Schools Show Promise

Evidence is mounting that early-college high schools work.

And as high schools look to redesign, some researchers are examining the model with great hope for engaging students.

Students in early-college high schools have a 93 percent graduation rate, compared with the national average of about 78 percent, according to Jobs for the Future, which has 246 early-college schools with 75,000 students in its network.

(JFF estimates that there may be about 100 additional early-college schools outside its initiative.)

Research shows earning college credit while still in high school makes students more engaged and boosts their performance in the short and long term. Students in these schools are given extra supports and participate in interactive classrooms to improve learning outcomes.

The first semester after graduating early college, 76 percent of graduates in JFF's network enroll in college vs. the national rate of 68 percent, notes the Boston-based research and education organization that has organized the Early College High School Initiative since 2002.

Early-college grads from JFF schools in 2011 earned an average 36 college credits along with their high school diploma.

Families are embracing the model because of the cost savings, as students can amass nearly one-third of the credits needed toward a bachelor's degree in these schools. More than half these students are from low-income families, and 77 percent are minorities, according to JFF.

Allowing students to take even one college-level class in high school can significantly increase the chances of going to and completing college, research from JFF last fall revealed.

The American Institutes for Research has evaluated the Early High School College Initiative and found students in these schools outperform their peers on state standardized assessments and have higher on-time graduation rates than students in surrounding districts.

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