One of the latest trends in education is the early college model. This is a high school that accelerates student learning so that each student graduates high school with an associate's degree.
The first of these schools in Colorado was Southwest Early College in southwest Denver. It's on the campus of Teikyo Loretto Heights University. The charter school, founded by Christopher Gerboth, opened in 2004. It has since replicated to include another campus: Early College High School of Arvada. In addition, Colorado Springs Early College and Southern College Early College have both opened new charter schools using a similar model.
Each of these schools has a partnership with an institution of higher education that allows their students to take college courses while also taking high school courses. The schools test students in each of the different subjects to ensure students are prepared for college-level coursework. A student may be taking college mathematics and science, but high school English and social studies.
Recently Gov. Ritter signed into law new legislation that clarifies students qualifying for public education funding while also taking college courses. This new law accentuates the Postsecondy Enrollment Act, which permits high school juniors and seniors to take college courses for dual credit. However, if a student fails the course, the parents must pay for the college tuition. If the student passes, the high school will reimburse the parent's for up to two courses per semester. The new law allows certain students in their freshman or sophmore year to take college courses and allows high school students to take more college courses.
Many of the students served by these early colleges are high-risk meaning they're students of poverty and/or would be the first in their families to attend college. For many, this model allows students to surmount the perceived hurdle of attending college -- feeling qualified and with the remedial support necessary to be successful.
We're sure to see research come out over the next few years on how this model is working in Colorado. To be sure, it's already had an effect on a significant number of families!