Monfredo: Worcester Public Schools Launch Early College Program

Saturday, September 29, 2018
John Monfredo, GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTER™

Unfortunately, in society the news that makes the headlines continues to be about negative events.  So for a change here is some news that should make you feel good about the Worcester Public Schools and offer a great opportunity to high school students that can make a difference in a student’s future career.

Last week at the School Committee meeting Superintendent Binienda in her “Report of the Superintendent” had on the agenda the “Worcester Public Schools Early College High School Program.”  She introduced Dr. Mary Meade-Montaque, Manager of Instruction and School Leadership, to give a summary of this new program that can be described as a seamless alignment to college.

The program entitled “Massachusetts Early College Initiative” is coordinated by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and the Elementary and Secondary Education in consultation with the Massachusetts Executive office of Education.  Already you can see that the state has its fingerprints all over this program.  Nine districts in Massachusetts are now involved in this initiative this year.

The PURPOSE of this project is to:

  • Expand, grow and sustain advanced learning opportunities
  • Provide high-quality early college programs
  • Enhance partnerships connecting high schools and colleges
  • Provide thousands of Massachusetts students especially underserved populations to access to college, college completion, and career success.

 

In addition the program will align with the following guiding principles:

1. Equitable Access - targeting students underrepresented in higher education… eliminating barriers to student participation

2. Academic Pathways - that are well integrated and aligned with college and career… college rigor and experience

3. Robust Student Support - in both academics and advising…there will be wraparound services to promote and assist with mentors

4. Connections to Career - through workplace and experiential learning experiences…more exposure to targeted pathways that will lead to careers

5. High-Quality & Deep Partnerships - between high schools and college…

One of the goals of the program is to prepare all students, especially underrepresented students to higher education to succeed in the world that awaits them after high school.  According to research, early college is among the most effective strategies for promoting higher rates of college access and degree or credential completion.  Students will be able to earn high school and college credit simultaneously.

Superintendent Binienda announced at the meeting that, “The WPS is partnering with WSU and QCC to provide an Early College experience to 11th  and 12th-grade students attending all 7 high schools.  Students will take college credit courses at both colleges and at each of their high schools.  Students will become familiar with both college campuses, and receive mentoring and support services. The Worcester Public Schools continues to expand college and career opportunities for our students”

This program will give students a positive step toward applying to college.  National studies have found that students in Early College programming are more likely to receive a high school diploma, enroll in college immediately after graduating, and be successful in college during their time there.  Also, the advantage of this program is that it is free and depending on the student up to 12 college credits can be obtained in their junior and senior year. This will save students a great deal of money depending on the number of credits earned.  For example, if a student earns three credits that could be a savings of around $600.00 in college credit.   

At the present time the courses run Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 2:30 to 3:20.  Forty-five hours of course time will need to be completed.  In addition, free bus transportation to the site will also be given to the students and students are provided with bus passes to the WRTA buses to get home.  Students can earn up to 12 FREE college credits in the 11th and 12th grades as we move forward.  At the start of this new program 86 students have enrolled in the program.  In addition, many freshmen and sophomores are taking College and Career Readiness I course.

One of the student representatives at the School Committee was among those students who have signed up for the Early College program and has enjoyed it.  Kwaku Nyarko, a junior from Doherty High School, stated that the program has been great.  He acknowledged, “They pay for all of our supplies and we have access to the library, gym, and other facilities on campus after classes which is nice. “ He then went on to say that in the future he would like to see a larger variety of classes offered along with options of a different time such as 6:00 to 7:30 or 4:30 to 5:30. This would allow student athletes to also take college courses.   He acknowledged that he has enjoyed the professors and that the curriculum has been very accommodating.  Most importantly, he stated, “I appreciate the support the program has provided.”

Dr. Montaque in talking about the value for this program declared, “We are excited about the opportunities the Early College High School Program provides for our students and look forward to working with our partners at Quinsigamond Community College and Worcester State University to continually grow this program so that we can further increase offerings for Worcester Public School students.”

Please keep in mind that Early College not only gives students the opportunity to experience college while in high school, but also provides supports so students can be given the knowledge to persist and succeed.   Many of the students enrolled will be the first in their family to have the chance to succeed in college courses and this program will give high school students the confidence that they can indeed succeed in college. Let us do all that we can to encourage and mentor our students to take advantage of these opportunities for this program can be a change maker in their future endeavors.   Should any parent need additional information on this program please contact your child’s guidance counselor.

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