Monday, December 26, 2005

Early College

The News Reporter
City reacts to plans for school

The Whiteville City Schools Board of Education listened to a presentation about the proposed early college high school during its Dec. 12 meeting.

Southeastern Community College Dean of Business and Technology Al Phillips made essentially the same presentation he had made to the Columbus County Board of Education one week earlier.

The schools, to be housed on the SCC campus and to be known as the Southeastern Early College, will host about 160 students when it is fully running.

Those students, chosen at the end of their eighth-grade year because they might not stay in school long enough to earn a diploma, will be able to earn a high school [diploma] and associate college degree in just five years.

The city board members had plenty of questions for Phillips, who was one of 45 members of a planning team for SEC.

Board member Greg Merritt wanted to know how the school would be presented to the parents of potential students.

“I don’t see a whole slew of kids going into this,” he said.

Phillips said that plan had already been generating interest among parents at the city and county’s middle schools.

“We already have some interest in this,” Phillips said. “Once approved, we will contact all of the schools. I think it will work well. Teachers, principals and sometimes parents know what they’re fixing to loose their kid.”

“The middle schools counselors will be paramount to the success of this,” said Superintendent Danny McPherson.

SCC President Kathy Matlock was present for the meeting. “Students will have their high school diploma and a two-year associate’s degree,” she said. “That’s a tremendous marketing tool.

The early college high school model is designed to attract and retain students who were otherwise “disconnected” from their regular schools. They don’t play sports. They don’t march in the band or sing in the chorus. They don’t participate in any clubs and don’t particularly shine in any class.

Matlock said that Microsoft creator Bill Gates and his wife Melinda are the instigators behind the national early college high school movement.

“Our greatest concern is not to lose the potential of these students,” she said. “We have to compete and we need every single citizen. In China, India and Pakistan every student is studying math and science. In China, every student learns English and Japanese.”

Matlock said the students who attend this school will mostly likely stay in the community.

McPherson said that the schools would have to go out and individually recruit kids into the school.

Merritt asked how Robeson County had started its early college high school.

Phillips said that educators began with all four grades in the high school at once.

SEC will phase in one grade at a time, recruiting rising ninth-graders each year.

“We feel the phase-in is better,” Phillips said.

Board member Larry Hewett asked about the impact of these schools. Phillips said the schools are too new to know for sure what the outcomes will be.

“We won’t know for sure for three to five years down the road,” he said. “Everything that we get is saying that 90 percent of the students in those early college high schools are staying.”

Phillips said that good screening of students for the school would result in more students staying in the school.

Board member Carlton Prince said he was concerned about mixing high school freshmen with first and second-year college students.

Students in early college high schools are able to take college-level courses, starting their sophomore year.

“Students will not go into a college course until they’re ready,” Phillips said. “These will be blended classes.”

Phillips said that there are already 16-year-old high school students dual-enrolled in college level classes at SCC.

The earliest a high school student can take college level work is the second semester of the 10th grade, but we want them to venture out their junior and senior years,” he added.

Prince was also concerned that the “B” average would be too high for all students to be required to maintain.

“That’s just a goal,” Phillips said. “We know realistically that’s not going to happen, but we will shoot for that. A student must have a 2.0 average or better for a college degree. We’re not going to discourage anyone. We’ll encourage and we’ll support.”

Next month, both school boards and the college’s board of trustees must put their stamps of approval on the grant proposal for the school, which would be one of 35 in the state.

SEC students would be given college ID cards, identifying them as early college high school students. With this ID, they would be allowed to participate in college student support services and cultural functions.

SEC students would have access to the college’s academic skills lab for tutoring. SCC plans to offer mentoring services to the high schoolers.

Phillips said that each SEC student would be paired with a faculty member, staff member or an advanced college student.

SEC students will be able to participate in campus clubs and organizations, including SCC’s student government.

This is an idea I like. I've been talking to people for the last 2 years about the need for a school similar to the one proposed.

It looks like a good idea but it still leaves a trouble area in our local schools, kids that can't and/or won't learn. This program will pull out decent keds that just don't quite fit in high school. But the kids that are forced to go and don't give a crap about learning and don't have the decency to shut up and let those that do to do so. A school needs to be set up for them and the ones that are too dumb to learn at a high school level (if that offends you, too bad). At this school they are taught basic laboring to more advance labor type skills (welding, masonry, carpentry, concrete work, cosmetology, land scaping etc). This will leave the regular schools with student populations that can and want to learn

posted by David at 9:23 PM :: Permalink ::

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