Morehead City, N.C.
Sept. 15, 2017
TO THE EDITOR:
The “Early College High School” program has been marketed to many members of our community as a way to better prepare students who want to learn applicable skills, but who do not necessarily want to go to a typical 4-year college. This facet of the program would aim to train students with skills (like small engine repair, boat building …) that can be used within our local community, working for local businesses. This sounds great and I support this.
My primary concern has been with details of the “Early College High School” application. I feared that its “target population” could exclude many good, hard working students. The following mission statement is from page 6 of the “Early College High School” application:
“The mission of the school is to provide a personalized, academically energized environment at both the high school and college level for students who are first-generation, college bound, traditionally underrepresented in higher education, and/or at risk for dropping out of high school.”
At first glance, this appears to be an admirable goal, but I feel it unfortunately excludes many students. Consider the program’s Student Target Population (as stated on page 3 of the Early College High School application):
a. High school students at risk of dropping out before attaining a high school diploma.
b. High school students with parents who did not continue education beyond high school, defined as “first generation college students” by the USED.
c. High school students who would benefit from accelerated academic instruction.
Now consider an example for each of three groups:
a. If a “student at risk of dropping out” is given priority over a student who may have been working hard to stay in school, are we rewarding the wrong behavior and punishing the better behavior?
b. Consider two equally “economically disadvantaged” students. Is it fair to demote the application of one of these students because his (single) mom tried to better herself and her family by attending college?
c. The student targeted for this last group remains vague, but could include those who would benefit financially (for whom four years of college is cost prohibitive) or those who might otherwise benefit by getting a head start on college. (Students can earn more college credits in Early College High School than they can in traditional high school.) However, rather than staying in the community and working locally, this group of students will typically go off to a university to finish their education with a couple of years of college credits under their belts. This could be a great financial benefit, but some might object to the idea that the local community should subsidize the cost of college tuition for certain students.
In our board of education meeting, I had questioned whether the same opportunities might be offered (more economically?) through expansion of current dual enrollment programs, rather than by creating a separate high school. It appeared that many courses in aquaculture would be limited only to students enrolled in the Early College High School. Could we offer traditional high school students access to the same courses through dual enrollment?
According to the News-Times article on Sept. 10, 2017: “Dr. Hauser, during the trustees’ meeting, said if there are still available slots once students meeting the at risk criteria are accepted, he would open them up to all students.” Is this fair to interested students who are not “at risk of dropping out”? Non-college bound students interested in a local trade may not fall into any of the three target groups outlined in the program’s application.
Fortunately, the statute (NCGS 115C-238.50) which outlines the guidelines for funding does not require that these “Target Groups” be given priority over other students. I originally feared that once we submitted the application, we would need to stick to the target population submitted in order to satisfy the guidelines of the funding allocation. However, the selection of applicants remains a local decision and is not defined by the “Student Target Population.”
This was not clear when the application was originally presented and may still not be clear to some people now. If we want to give priority to non-college bound students who are going to stay and work in our local community, then we have the ability to do so through the application process.
I appreciate that our administrators have been working to bring a program like the “Early College High School” to our community. As discussed with other BOE members, we will need to keep a close eye on this, being certain to craft metrics and performance indicators to ensure that the objective of the program is being achieved at a cost that is proportionate to per pupil expenditures at all three high schools. Concerning the way the new school is being marketed … if we can “adjust the aim” of the target population by promoting program benefits to all students, we could potentially create a valuable program for our community that we all can be proud of.
TRAVIS DAY, member
Carteret County Board of Education