CHATHAM–The Board of Education listened to a presentation last week from two representatives of EDWorks, a company that helps school districts set up and implement “Early College High School” programs.
Starting in the fall of 2015 the district will no longer conduct regular classes or other school functions at the Middle School building on Woodbridge Avenue, and instead will consolidate middle school grades at the remaining two buildings. Grade 6 will move to the Mary E. Dardess (MED) Elementary School, and grades 7 and 8 will move into the High School.
With the students are relocated, the district plans to find new uses for the Middle School building. In addition to plans to move the district offices to that building, the board has also discussed the possibility of leasing space to local businesses as well as using some of the space to offer college courses to high school students and community members.
EDWorks representative Andrea Mulkey and Chief Innovation Officer Deborah Howard presented the board at its October 8 workshop meeting with information about how the company works and the programs it helps set up. EDWorks, based in Ohio, designs and implements programs that integrate college courses with high school curriculum through collaboration between colleges and the school district.
Ms. Mulkey said these models include a rigorous curriculum designed for students to earn college credits while completing high school. The goal of the program is for students to earn up to 60 hours of college credit before graduating from high school. She said that the “Early College High School” programs EDWorks has set up elsewhere have seen a 97% graduation rate from high school; 79% of the students in the programs have earned at least a year of college credit; and 1 in 3 students graduate from high school with an associate’s degree.
She also said that 87% of students in the program go on to pursue a 4-year degree.
The company has 23 of these programs set up in this state, said Ms. Mulkey, with about 6,000 students. She told the board that 98% of those students are on track to earn their high school diploma.
Ms. Howard said that the program does not offer a large variety of electives because students need to meet certain requirements in a short amount of time to qualify for college courses. She said freshman and sophomore years would be “loaded” with language arts and mathematics classes so that by the middle of their sophomore year, students are able to start many of the college courses.
“It’s a very tightly crafted set of courses,” she said. “We are preparing students to be college ready, not by the end of their senior year, but by the middle of their sophomore year.”
Ms. Howard said the program especially supports the students least likely to attend college.
Board member David O’Connor said he was excited to hear the information but added he was concerned about “the workload transition.” He said that rather than worrying about how 8th graders would transition to high school, now the worry would be about the “8th graders becoming college students.”
Board member Mike Clark asked how the college courses would be funded.
“For the first couple of years, you’ll need some startup funds,” replied Ms. Howard. “Then once you get to the 2nd or 3rd year, you’re then using the savings from staffing.” No amounts or funding sources were discussed at the meeting.
The next board meeting is scheduled for October 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the High School library.