Today I visited the Early College HS at Arvada, near 60th & Sheridan. The charter school is authorized by the state Charter School Institute and in its first year of operation. Sarah Brock is the Principal and founder. Her background includes being the director of Sylvan Learning Center in Massachusetts. The charter school is the second for co-founder Chris Gerboth, who first started the Southwest Early College in Denver.
There are several key features of this school's model that will lead to school success. It's a small school (64 students this year, growing one grade level each year), the culture is focused on college prep, students are expected to work hard and take their education seriously, and there is a comprehensive intervention system to ensure adequate support for students.
The student success management program is a system of green, yellow or red lights. Students can earn up 24 points through an objective system that includes academics, attendance, and behavior. Every four weeks students' individual scores are calculated and an assembly is held to hand out certificates. The number of students earning a green light has increased each of the first three time periods this fall. The most recent data show that over half of the students earned a green light and eight students were only one point away from earning a green light.
Students who earn a red light are given phased interventions to help them move up their points. This includes a meeting with the parents and Principal, a meeting with the parents and the entire staff, student contracts and motivations unique to the individual student.
An essential component of the academic support provided at ECHS is online tutoring via Sylvan Learning Centers. ECHS students work in a computer lab with a teacher in the room, Sylvan's online program first analyzes the student's strengths and weaknesses and then designs a remediation program matched to that student. Students work with headphones on where they speak directly with a Sylvan teacher who has no more than three students working with him/her at a time. The student has an electronic writing pad and can write answers into the questions on the screen, jot notes in the scratch pad area of the screen or select answers to questions. Further they can online chat with other students or their Sylvan teacher. Sometimes they're asked to read a selected passage to their Sylvan teacher. Every student begins the supplemental program at their level so they can achieve success the first day. The classroom teacher is ECHS's designated Sylvan contact and monitors individual student progress, which is also available for the students to monitor their own progress.
The combination of the student success management system, the small school size, the high degree of accountability and strong academic support almost ensure academic success. Clearly any student who wants to progress has the supports to make that happen.