Press Release: State Policies Key in Sustaining Innovative High Schools

Published mar. 23, 2010

BOSTON (March 23, 2010) — North Carolina has been able to do what many states have not—rapidly create a large number of innovative high schools that reduce dropout numbers and provide sustainable pathways through the first critical years of postsecondary  education.

A new report by Jobs for the Future, Policies Paved the Way (, describes how the state has forged a supportive climate for innovation and a “can-do” attitude among local education leaders. It is told from the perspective of leaders of early college high schools, designed so that students—especially those with traditionally low rates of high school and college success—can graduate high school with an Associate’s degree or up to two years of transferrable college credit at no cost.

“This report is primarily a success story, one that should encourage North Carolina to hold its course and illustrate how other states can support the creation of better pathways through high school and college,” said Joel Vargas, JFF program director and the report’s lead author. “Schools and colleges that partner in early college schools are both empowered to innovate and accountable for producing results.”

North Carolina began launching early college high schools in 2004 through the New Schools Project. Today there are 70 in the state.

The schools’ success is clear. On average, dropout rates in early college schools are significantly lower (0.78 percent) than statewide rates for traditional schools (4.97 percent). Also, more than 60 percent of early college schools outperform other schools in their districts on state end-of-course growth targets.

“North Carolina is a leader in educational innovation, and new approaches to high school are key to making sure every student graduates ready for college, a career or technical training,” said Gov. Bev Perdue of North Carolina.

While the report acknowledges the local leadership that has helped ensure this success, it highlights the policies that state leaders have either added or removed in order to encourage the growth and sustainability of these schools.

Some key policies and resources discussed in this report include: dual enrollment legislation that allows high school students to earn college credit in their own classes or on college campuses; waivers for early colleges to adjust their calendars so that they line up with their partner college’s; paying for liaisons to help coordinate schedules between their two campuses and facilitate course designs; flexibility in seat-time requirements so that high school students can learn a portion of their studies on a college campus.

North Carolina’s early colleges are among the 200-plus schools nationwide in the Early College High School Initiative, coordinated by JFF with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. These schools serve more than 42,000 students in 24 states, the vast majority of whom are from families of a minority race, low-income status, or that have never gone to college. Despite those facts, these students graduate high school at a staggering rate of 92 percent. Of those, 40 percent graduate with at least a full year of free college credit. Eleven percent even graduate high school with a diploma and an Associate’s degree.

About the New Schools Project
The North Carolina New Schools Project (NCNSP) works to accelerate systemic, sustainable innovation in secondary schools across the state so that, in time, every high school in North Carolina graduates every student ready for college, careers and life in the society and economy of the 21st century.

About the Early College High School Initiative
Early college schools blend high school and college in a rigorous yet supportive program, compressing the time it takes to complete a high school diploma and the first two years of college. The schools are designed so that low-income youth, first-generation college goers, English language learners, students of color, and other young people underrepresented in higher education can simultaneously earn a high school diploma and one to two years of transferable college credit—tuition free.


About Jobs for the Future

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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