Early College High School Initiative: 2003-2005 Evaluation Report (2006)
This report is the second annual synthesis report on the national evaluation of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Early College High School Initiative (ECHSI). The foundation established the vision for the ECHSI. At its most basic, this vision is summarized in a set of Core Principles, which includes the requirements that ECHSs provide students an opportunity to earn an Associate’s degree or two years toward their baccalaureate while in high school, that the college credits are covered at public expense, and that the academic program is compressed to four or five years. The foundation continued its emphasis on school characteristics, described in 2005 as “the new 3R’s”––rigorous instruction, relevant curriculum, and supportive relationships—in all ECHS classrooms.
Partners in the ECHSI include the foundation, Jobs for the Future (JFF), the intermediaries (or grantees), and local partners (who had opened 49 ECHSs nationwide by fall 2004). Although these ECHSs differ in their designs, all schools strive to integrate high school and college, giving students the opportunity to earn a high school diploma as well as two year’s worth of college credit in four or five years. Another unique feature of ECHSs is their focus on serving students traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education.
The intermediaries in the initiative are charged with enacting the ECHSI vision. The role of the intermediaries, although varied, principally involves selecting partners to develop the ECHSs, distributing grants to selected partners to open ECHSs, supporting ECHS progress (through activities such as coaching), and ensuring that the ECHSs stay within the vision of the initiative (by gauging their progress against established benchmarks). As the coordinating intermediary for the initiative, JFF assists the foundation with developing the vision. JFF responsibilities fall in three key areas: (1) accountability, (2) technical assistance, and (3) policy work.
All ECHSs developed through local partnerships that involved at least one institution of higher education (IHE), usually community colleges, working with another entity (e.g., a school district, a school, or a community-based organization). The structural designs and emphases of ECHSs vary greatly around the country. For example, pre-existing comprehensive high schools may create an ECHS program within the school to form a new small learning community, while some existing small high schools may adapt their entire program to become ECHSs, and other new schools may open as ECHSs. ECHSs work with nearby IHEs and, in some cases, are located on an IHE campus. In the 2004-05 academic year, these schools were primarily new; about half of the schools enrolled only grades 10 or lower. Some schools emphasize certain themes, for example: allied health and medicine, mathematics, science and technology, Native American culture, and teacher preparation.