Early College High Schools: Early Recruitment and Selection Strategies (2005)
By June 2004, more than 20 schools opened their doors as, or began their transformation into, Early College High Schools (ECHSs). The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supported these schools, at least in part, through the Early College High School Initiative (ECHSI). The main goal of this initiative is to give students the opportunity to complete high school and two years of college credit in a compressed timeframe and at public expense.
A unique aspect of the ECHSI is its target population. Many high schools offer college credit to academically advanced students, and many colleges support programs that allow gifted students to pursue a high school and college degree simultaneously. ECHSI intends to extend these kinds of opportunities to students from groups that are traditionally underserved and underrepresented in higher education. According to the ECHSI core principles document:
[The] small school being created through this initiative will focus on low-income students—those for whom a smooth transition into post-secondary education is now problematic. These include students who are highly motivated but have not received the academic preparation necessary to meet high school standards, students who are English language learners, students whose family obligations keep them at home, and students for whom the cost of college is prohibitive.
In working with these students, the foundation’s goal is to provide an accelerated, rather than remedial, learning environment. The foundation hopes that by exposing traditionally underserved and underrepresented students to college, and supporting them during that exposure, the students will gain both the confidence that they can achieve in college and the security of having up to two years of college credit to build on.
Given that an essential goal of the ECHSI is to educate traditionally underserved students, examining the strategies that each school used to enroll its initial class of students provides an early indicator of the initiative’s implementation success. This paper summarizes the strategies ECHSs have adopted to overcome the initial hurdle of attracting and enrolling the targeted students. Specifically, this paper addresses three main questions about student enrollment:
- What strategies did intermediaries and ECHSs use to recruit students?
- What criteria did intermediaries and ECHSs use to select students?
- To what extent have ECHSs enrolled traditionally underserved students?