Lake County School District forms early college

Lake County School District forms early college

Colorado Mountain college Leadville campus aerial view - Lake County School District forms early college

Originally published on June 8, 2017 in the Leadville Herald Democrat,

by Ryan Fitzmaurice, Herald Staff Writer

The Lake County School Board approved the formation of an early college in a special meeting May 23. The program aims to build a bridge between high school and college for students who would be at risk of dropping out of higher education without it.

“We’ve got much better at getting kids into college, but what we see, across the state and the country, is a lot of those kids don’t end up finishing college,” Wendy Wyman, Lake County School District superintendent said. “This creates that bridge of how do you college with the safety of the high school backing you up. We’re trying to create an environment where kids don’t just get into college, but finish college.”

The Lake County Early College Program, which differs from concurrent enrollment or higher education programs like ASCENT, will create a separate school within Lake County High School designed to provide students with the opportunity to graduate with a high school diploma and an Associates degree, or 60 hours of college work, giving students the capacity to complete their bachelor’s degree within two years of graduation. A student will not need to be in early college to concurrently enroll.

Students within the early college will have to enroll in at least seven credit hours at Colorado Mountain College while needing to meet all Lake County High School graduation requirements.
Students may register for early college between their 10th- and 12th-grade years, and a fifth and sixth year in the program is possible for students enrolled.

The program is a right fit for the school due to a rising number of first- generation students and students that may have difficulty completing college taking part in concurrent enrollment, according to school officials.

When concurrent enrollment started in 2015, 39 students had enrolled. This past spring, that number nearly doubled, with 72 students enrolled.

Even more telling is the demographics of students taking those classes have shifted. While only 30 percent of Lake County’s student population is Caucasian, 70 percent of the students who concurrently enrolled were Caucasian in 2015.

Now the demographics of concurrent enrollment match the demographics of the student population. The same shift has happened with gender, according to Erin Allaman, director and founder of Youth Culture Works.

The program is designed to give students who are interested in college, but might need more support, the resources they need.

“You teach how to go to college. You teach how to make it through college,” Allaman said. “By doing an early college, we can teach students how to navigate that.”

Wyman said the program has a large potential of working due to it giving students the resources of CMC while also not denying them the resources of the high school.

Despite the early college being recognized as a different school, the students will take the same high school classes as other students on a higher-education-oriented graduation pathway.

But, early college students will receive a different report card within the program, compared with other high school students. They may also not be eligible to receive a class rank or be named valedictorian or salutatorian. And while students of early college will be able to walk with their graduating class, unless they finish the program in four years, they may not be able to graduate until up to two years later when they finish the program.

Allaman said there is a way out for students who enter the program and discover it isn’t right for them.

“There’s an off-ramp. At any point they can graduate with high school diploma,” Allaman said.
Amy Frykholm, school board president, urged officials to pay special attention to academic counseling efforts in presenting the option.

“Who we have advising kids needs to be really clear on what are the advantages for ASCENT versus early college, versus concurrent enrollment, versus graduating early,” Frykholm said. “I agree that the danger is a kid will end up on a track that is not beneficial for them.”

Wyman said the program could be available as soon as next fall.

“What we would be able to say to a freshmen student is, ‘This is an option. You have a reason to stay here and keep pushing’,” Wyman said. “That has power for kids.”

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