ESEA Reauthorization Marks Pivotal Moment for Early College High Schools and Dual and Concurrent Enrollment

Published dec. 10, 2015

U.S. Senate approves new education bill that replaces No Child Left Behind Act 

Boston, MA—December 10, 2015—Bard College, Jobs for the Future, KnowledgeWorks/EDWorks, and the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships congratulate the United States Congress and President on passing the Every Student Succeeds Act and for recognizing the important role of early college high schools and other forms of dual and concurrent enrollment in developing a seamless transition between high school and college and preparing students for success in higher education. The Every Student Succeeds Act, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, provides more flexibility to states and local education agencies to implement innovative strategies like early college high schools and other dual and concurrent enrollment programs that improve rigor in secondary schools and help students effectively transition to higher education. 

“Early college high schools are a powerful vehicle for increasing the quality of our public education system and helping students seamlessly transition to higher education,” said Leon Botstein, President of Bard College. “Early college high schools are proven to engage students and significantly increase their chances of completing college degrees, and with less debt.  We are pleased that Congress and the President have chosen to recognize the value of early college education.” 

Thanks to the hard work of numerous Senators and Representatives, the Every Student Succeeds Act identifies early college high schools and other forms of dual and concurrent enrollment as key strategies in preparing students for college. The Act enables states and local education agencies to utilize federal funds to support college coursework for students attending schools in need of improvement (Title I) and high poverty schools (Title I), for low-income students attending private schools (Title I), for teacher professional development (Title II), for English language acquisition (Title III), and for academic enrichment (Title IV). The Act also incorporates student participation in college coursework in local school and state report cards as a component of local school district plans to transition students to postsecondary education, and as a potential indicator in state accountability systems. Finally, the Act includes, for the first time in federal statute, a definition of early college high schools and dual and concurrent enrollment programs to establish consistent terminology for this work.

“At a time when accessibility, affordability and more importantly, attainment, are of national concern, bold support of early college high schools through ESEA reauthorization will help scale this high-impact approach to teaching and learning,” said KnowledgeWorks President and CEO Judy Peppler. “For hundreds of thousands of low-income, first-generation students who may not have seen college as an option, early college high schools can offer a promising start to set students on a path toward a college degree.”

“Early college high schools have great potential for propelling students from underserved backgrounds to high school graduation, postsecondary credentials, and college degrees,” explained Joel Vargas, Vice President for School and Learning Designs at Jobs for the Future.  “They combine high school and college in rigorous, yet supportive environments that embrace acceleration over remediation. Over the past decade, early college high schools have produced dramatic results with early college students outperforming their peers nationwide.”  

Together, the new provisions enable states and local school districts to use early college high schools and other forms of dual and concurrent enrollment as a strategy for improving high school graduation rates, smoothing the transition between high school and college, and ensuring that more students, particularly those from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds, are set up for postsecondary success.  

"Throughout the negotiations over ESEA reauthorization during the past two years, dual and concurrent enrollment programs and early college high schools received strong support from elected officials of both parties, in both chambers, and the administration," said Adam Lowe, Executive Director of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships. "Federal statute now recognizes the importance of these college partnerships in high school student success, and places these models on equal footing with other accelerated learning approaches such as Advanced Placement." 

Early taste of college can set high school students on path to a degree

Early college high schools are partnerships between Local Education Agencies and Institutions of Higher Education that allow high school students to earn tuition-free college credits up to an Associate’s degree or credential as part of an organized college course of study while simultaneously completing requirements for the high school diploma. There are over 300 early college high schools nationwide, with a range of higher education partners and focus areas, including liberal arts and sciences, STEM, and specific career fields. Numerous research studies, including a randomized control trial conducted by the American Institutes for Research, have shown that early college high schools significantly increase students’ rates of enrollment in college and degree completion.  

During the 2010-11 school year, dual and concurrent enrollment programs enabled 1.4 million high school students to enroll in over 2 million credit-bearing college courses through institutions of higher education nationwide.   Through these programs, students gain exposure to the academic challenges of college while remaining in their supportive high school environments, earning transcripted college credit when they successfully pass the course. Multi-institution and statewide research studies in more than a dozen states provide strong evidence of the effectiveness of dual and concurrent enrollment coursework in college transition, persistence, and completion, especially for students traditionally underrepresented in higher education. 

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About the Partners

Bard College, a pioneer in early college education since 1979, runs a national network of tuition-free early college high schools serving over 2,000 students in New York City, (Lower East Side, Manhattan; Long Island City, Queens; Harlem Children’s Zone, Manhattan), Newark, NJ; Cleveland; OH, New Orleans, LA; and Baltimore, MD.  Students have the opportunity to earn up to 60 transferable college credits and an Associate in Arts degree from Bard College, tuition-free, alongside a high school diploma. 

Jobs for the Future is a national nonprofit that works to ensure educational and economic opportunity for all. Jobs for the Future develops innovative career pathways, educational resources, and public policies that increase college readiness and career success, and build a more highly skilled workforce. With over 30 years of experience, Jobs for the Future is the national leader in bridging education and work to increase mobility and strengthen our economy.

KnowledgeWorks, an Ohio-based nonprofit social enterprise, fosters meaningful personalized learning that enables every student to thrive in college, career and civic life. KnowledgeWorks works on the ground with schools and communities through a portfolio of innovative education approaches, helps state and federal leaders establish policy conditions necessary to prepare all students for success, and provides national thought leadership around the future of learning. Its subsidiary EDWorks offers innovative school designs, including their EDWorks Fast Track Early College High School model,  that have been field tested at high schools in more than 50 districts across eight states. By working closely with schools and communities, EDWorks empowers first-generation college-goers and traditionally underserved students to graduate from high school better prepared for college. 

The National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP) works to ensure that college courses offered in high schools are as rigorous as courses offered on the sponsoring college campus. As the sole national accrediting body for concurrent enrollment partnerships, NACEP helps these programs adhere to the highest standards so students experience a seamless transition to college and teachers benefit from meaningful, ongoing professional development. To advance the field and support its national network of 450 colleges and universities, high schools, school districts, state agencies, and system office partners, NACEP actively shares the latest knowledge about best practices, research, and advocacy.