In this era of ‘accountability’ everyone in the education world is concerned about performance on state tests, adequate yearly progress (AYP), No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and the local report card (LRC).  These are indicators which evaluate the school on student performance on the state tests, it looks at attendance, service to various demographics, and a few other factors.  There is a LOT of data to suggest that these measurements can distract a school from truly educating students and causes us as educators to lower the bar of expectations for our students.  Experienced educators know that students’ success in college and post-secondary life is not correlated to passing tests.  What we know at The Charles School, is that the tests are necessary for the state to keep the school accountable (which is a good thing), and that it does measure some aspects of students learning and growth while at the school, but we are gearing students up for college success.

Notice I said college success, not college readiness.  Our students are TAKING college courses while in high school.  They are having tremendous success and while we have not graduated our first class of students yet (we are in the 4th year out of 5 required to graduate), we can see from cumulative data of similar schools that students who graduate from early college high schools are outperforming their peers in college GPA, lower drop out rate, much higher graduation rate, and are overall more adjusted individuals who are kinder to their fellow man (that last one may or may not be true)!

As of this past fall, 44 of our students have taken college classes.  They have taken everything from Latin, to English 101, to Calculus and Studio Humanities for the Arts.  Cumulatively they are earning a GPA of 3.23!  They have accumulated 480 credit hours with 14 students in their 3rd semester earning 12 or greater credits.  So these students must be just superb right?  Well, yes, they are; they’re great in fact!  They probably come to the school college ready?  Well, not all of them.  Sure there are some of our students who are lights out when it comes to their academics.  There are others who have had to overcome significant personal challenges to get to the college.  We have 75% of our students qualified for free and reduced lunch and around 90% of our students are ethnic minorities (data from 2009-2010).  These are two of the most under-served populations within our society, let alone in education.  So another skepticism might be, so then the kids at the college aren’t necessarily indicative of these demographic groups.  Well, in fact, 68% of our juniors last year (the first year that students can begin a college class), participated in the college program by taking at least one class!

TCS@ODU exists to further the educational attainment and passionately pursue strong mentoring relationships with students so that they have every opportunity to go to college and pursue a life of opportunity.  To this end, our students can graduate with up to 62 credit hours, which could mean the completion of the Associates’ Degree.  This is, in essence, two years of college completed when they graduate high school and at no cost to the family.  If these students had to pay tuition for these credits at any of the other small liberal art colleges in the area, they would pay nearly $60,000!!  That’s $60,000 savings for the family and more if they have to take out a loan (significant personal experience and expense went into the development of that final point)!

As I have mentioned, we are in our 4th year and we have yet to graduate our founding class.  When we do, I know that they will be gaining a whole world of opportunity.  Over 75% of that class are currently on track to earn over 24 credit hours (which is a bit of a magic number when it comes to dropout prevention; students who complete 24 credit hours in college are far less likely to drop out before completing their degree).  Those that have 62 credit hours will be going into their first non-high school college class as a junior.  They will be an entire year ahead of their peers who began high school at the same time, but unfortunately at another school.  More to the larger point of education, they will have a significant opportunity to be life-long learners, productive members of our society, and contribute to the leadership of their communities.

-Ed

If you want to more about the school, check out the website: The Charles School

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