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Early College High Schools: Path to Postsecondary Education

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July 1, 2013

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Early College High Schools: Path to Postsecondary Education

Early College High Schools, in which students enroll in college courses while completing high school, benefit students and are particularly successful in helping students who are traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education to accumulate college credit, according to the American Institutes for Research (AIR).

AIR has been evaluating the Gates Foundation's Early College High School Initiative through a randomized control design that compared students accepted by lottery into an Early College High School and students who didn't get chosen by the lottery. Most of these Early College High Schools were located on college campuses and had postsecondary instructors teaching college-level courses.

Here are some key findings:

  • Early College High School students had higher English language arts test scores and were more like to graduate from high school than the comparison group.
  • Early College students had, by the end of high school, enrolled in postsecondary education at much higher rates. By one year after high school, the comparison group had narrowed the gap, but Early College students still maintained higher rates of college enrollment.
  • Early College students were more likely than their peers to enroll in both two- and four-year colleges.
  • By the end of high school, Early College students were much more likely than the comparison students to have earned a postsecondary credential, usually an associate degree.
  • Early Colleges benefit students regardless of such factors as gender, race/ethnicity, family income and earlier academic achievement. However, Early Colleges were particularly effective for young women, minorities and students from lower-income families.
  • Students at Early Colleges rate their school experience higher than the comparison group on rigor, college-going culture and supports, and instructor support.

While this report does not focus on types of postsecondary courses taken, many opportunities to earn college credit while in high school, such as dual enrollment and Early College High Schools, include CTE coursetaking. For instance, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 600,000 enrollments in CTE dual-credit courses in the 2010-2011 school year. Through these dual-credit opportunities, high school students prepare to be college and career ready!

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