York school district mulls Early College program

jbecknell@enquirerherald.comApril 17, 2014 

— Students could graduate from York Comprehensive High School with up to 31 hours of college transfer credits under an Early College program the district is exploring with York Technical College.

“It’s another way to raise the bar for our students,” said York Superintendent Vernon Prosser. “To help our students go ahead and earn college credit and prove to themselves that they can do it and finish a college degree.”

Prosser and Chris Black, principal of York Comprehensive High School, explained the program to school board members last week. Prosser said the program is still being developed, but he expects it may be ready for school board approval in the fall.

Black said the program would enable students who qualify to earn a University Studies Certificate while they complete their high school diploma.

“We want them as they leave our place to have their first year of college under their belt,” Black said, adding that they “would still be a high school student.”

Prosser and Black said the idea has been in discussion for several years. Both said the district has begun planning the program and discussing admission requirements with the staff at York Tech.

Prosser said classes would be taught by a mixture of high school staff and instructors at York Tech. He added that the program is designed so credits would be transferable to state-supported schools in South Carolina.

Black said the program is intended for advanced, motivated and high-achieving students. “This is going to be, to date, the most challenging curriculum at YCHS,” he said. “It’s not for everybody.”

He said students would be identified as candidates for the program in eighth grade, and that members of the current rising eighth-grade class could potentially be the first group to complete it.

He said students would need to qualify with MAP test scores of 230 reading and 245 math. They would need to complete Algebra I and English I in eighth grade with a score of 85 or higher, both on the End of Course test and as a class average.

In addition, students in the program would need to maintain a grade point average of 3.5 and earn no grade lower than a C, he said.

Black said the program would include a highly structured class schedule, with required English, math, science, social studies and other classes.

“It’s rigorous,” Black said of the schedule. “They don’t have room to do a lot of class experimenting. If they complete this, they would be in very good shape as they leave us.”

Black said students who just want to take AP or dual credit classes and earn some college credit, but not do the complete Early College program, will still be able to do so.

Black and Prosser also said the district plans to continue its Middle College program, intended to expose students who have one or more at-risk factors to college classes and enable them to earn college credit.

Students typically begin the Middle College program in their junior year, Black said, while Early College students would be identified much earlier, in eighth grade.

Prosser said about 135 students typically take Algebra I and English I in eighth grade, and the Early College program would draw from this group. He estimated that about 70 students each year might qualify for the program.

Prosser said the concept of the Early College is isn’t new. He said it’s just part of the district’s goal to offer a spectrum of choices for students who have different goals.

“Our idea is to have something for all students, no matter what their career goal may be,” he said. “We have a lot of bridges for students to get there.”

For high-achieving college bound students, Prosser said, the Early College program aims to “remove barriers, and let kids who are ready to accelerate go ahead and go for it.”

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