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Have Early Colleges Reached English-Learners?

One of the goals of the national Early-College High School Initiative, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been to support English-language learners to succeed in postsecondary education, according to a description of the initiative. But an evaluation of the initiative, based on data from the 2007-08 school year, provides only limited information about the participation of ELLs in early colleges. The early-college model of high school reform provides a shorter, less expensive, and highly supportive route to earning a college degree by enabling youths to take college courses tuition-free while still in high school.

The evaluation, however, did find that the student population of the early-college high schools supported by the Gates initiative was 67 percent minority, which was 6 percentage points higher than the minority population of the school districts from which the early-college students were drawn. Other than ELLs, the initiative aimed for early colleges to enroll students who are racial and ethnic minorities, lack financial resources for college, or would be the first in their family to attend college.

In a survey of early-college high schools in the 2006-07 school year, 10 percent of students were found to be ELLs. In the 2007-08 school year, 43 percent of students in early-college high schools said they speak a language other than English at home, but the evaluation doesn't say how many of those students were ELLs.

As I report in a story just published at EdWeek, 214 early colleges are part of a national network run by the Boston-based Jobs for the Future that benefited from a $107 million investment from Gates for the schools, which began in 2002. Most of that money has been spent and some states have cut back on subsidies for the schools, so some early colleges have had to close or are experiencing a lot of financial stress. (Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit corporation that publishes Education Week, also receives grant support from Gates.)

Readers, if you have some insight into how these schools are working particularly for ELLs, hit the comment button and share it with us.

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