Press Release: LaVonne Sheffield to Lead JFF’s National Expansion of Early College Designs

Published may. 25, 2011

BOSTON, MA (May 25, 2011) — Lavonne M. Sheffield, Ph.D., a veteran teacher and administrator with over 35 years' experience, has joined JFF as Associate Vice President for Early College Expansion. Building upon the proven success of JFF's early college high school work, Sheffield will lead the expansion of early college services designed to help school districts raise the graduation and college readiness rates of underserved and struggling students.

“LaVonne is deeply committed to ensuring that low-income and underserved students have access to quality K-12 education and college,” said Marlene B. Seltzer, president and CEO of JFF. “She views early college designs as an important strategy for achieving that goal and we are very excited about having her join our organization.”

Sheffield was most recently school superintendent in Rockford, Illinois. She began her career as a teacher in the Detroit public school system and has previously served as chief of staff to the mayor of Cleveland; chief academic officer of Detroit public schools; chief accountability officer for Philadelphia public schools; and superintendent of the Recovery School District in Baton Rouge, LA. Sheffield has a Bachelor’s degree in education and a Master’s degree in education from Wayne State University in Michigan and a doctorate in education from the University of Michigan.

“Early college designs is a proven model that helps underrepresented young people simultaneously earn a high school diploma and a college credit tuition free,” said Sheffield. “By expanding these designs in other markets around the country, JFF will help districts lower their dropout rates and increase the number of students who enter and successfully complete their college credential.”

Early college designs blend high school and college in a rigorous yet supportive setting, ensuring low-income and other underserved high school students are college ready and have the opportunity to earn meaningful college credit. JFF provides a host of services to high schools and districts interested in incorporating early college, including school design and evaluation; policy assessments; postsecondary partnerships; fiscal planning; professional development; and curriculum implementation.

“LaVonne is a dedicated and visionary professional,” said Dr. Arlene Ackerman, superintendent of the Philadelphia School District and former head of districts in San Francisco and Washington, DC. “She is committed to providing all children with quality educational opportunities.”

A national model for the creation of early college districts covering all students is in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA ISD) in Pharr, Texas, where all students will attend schools based on early college designs and earn college credits before  graduating from high school. The superintendent of PSJA ISD is Dr. Daniel King, who previously built the country’s first early college school district in Hidalgo, Texas.

“Today, college readiness and career readiness are comparable,” said Dr. King. “My goal is to create a seamless connection between high school and our two-year and four-year colleges so practically every student makes a successful transition and obtains a college degree and/or certification.”

The Texas High School Project, a state-level intermediary organization, helps to support the efforts of PSJA and other early college designs in Texas.

The most sizable statewide, early-college expansion has taken place in North Carolina, which has 71 schools, each located on the campus of a partnering college. The North Carolina New Schools Project is also a state-level intermediary organization that has proven to be an effective vehicle for spreading innovative school designs. Other states, including Kentucky, Massachusetts, and New York, are making new investments to improve college readiness through early college designs. 

“These efforts provide examples of what early college designs can do to accelerate students’ preparation for college and careers,” said Joel Vargas, vice president, High School Through College, JFF. “As they show, the best way to prepare young people to succeed in college is to provide them with substantial college experiences while still in high school.”

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Jobs for the Future works with our partners to design and drive adoption of education and career pathways leading from college readiness to career advancement for those struggling to succeed in today’s economy.
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