Stand Alone ECHS – Model Design

What are Early College High Schools? The term “early college” or “early college high school” is used in different ways across the country. It can be used to refer to anything from college credit courses offered in high school (also known as dual enrollment) to a whole school where students earn their high school diploma and associate degrees at the same time. In our work, we believe that early college is much more than just college courses in high school—it is really an effort to re-envision the relationship between high school and college. We borrow from definitions created by the National Early College Initiative and state-level efforts to define Early College High Schools.

Early College High Schools:

  • Have a goal of providing all their students with a high school diploma and two years of college credit, an associate degree, or a postsecondary technical credential within four to five years of starting high school
  • Serve students in grades 9-12 or 13, focusing on the kinds of students for whom the transition to college has historically been challenging
  • Provide students with extensive academic and effective supports to promote their success
  • Implement instructional practices designed to prepare students for education beyond high school
  • Provide school staff with ongoing professional development and collaboration
  • Represent a strong partnership between high schools and postsecondary institutions

The small, stand-alone ECHS have been implemented as small schools of choice, usually located on college campuses.

Experimental Study of the Impact of North Carolina’s Early College High School Model. In 2006, SERVE and their partners, began a longitudinal experimental study of the impact of the small, stand-alone early college model as implemented in North Carolina.

The study uses a lottery-based design in which students who applied to the early college and were deemed eligible were placed in a lottery. Students who were randomly accepted into the early college formed the treatment group and students who were not randomly accepted and want somewhere else (usually the district’s comprehensive high school) formed the control group.  Because both sets of students applied to and went through the lottery, the treatment and control groups were equivalent. This means that the study is comparing “apples to apples.”

The full study sample includes 4,054 students who applied to 19 early colleges and would have been 9th graders in the years 2005-06 through 2010-11. Outcome data for the study came from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the National Student Clearinghouse, the North Carolina Community College System and the University of North Carolina System. These data were linked and housed at the North Carolina Education Research Data Center at Duke University. Information on students’ experiences came from original surveys and from site visits to participating schools.

The study looked at a range of high school and postsecondary outcomes, including attendance, behavior, high school academic performance, high school graduation, postsecondary enrollment, postsecondary grades, and attainment of postsecondary credentials.

The study has been funded by four grants from the Institute of Education Sciences and by a grant from Arnold Ventures Foundation.

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