Commission highlights early college high schools


JASPER — The Indiana Commission for Higher Education brought education leaders from the state level to town when it met Thursday at Vincennes University Jasper Campus.

The commission guides postsecondary education in the state by defining the missions for Indiana’s colleges and universities, planning and coordinating the state’s postsecondary education system and ensuring that Indiana’s higher education system is aligned to meet the needs of students and the state.

At Thursday’s meeting, the commission discussed the early college model of high school education, which allows students to earn up to a year of college credits while in high school. The closest schools with early college high school programs are Perry Central Junior-Senior High School and Tell City Junior-Senior High School, both in Perry County.

Dr. Janet Boyle, executive director of the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning — CELL — at the University of Indianapolis, Dr. Drew Findlay, dean of career and technical education at Vincennes University and Director of Counseling Sue Auffenberg from Greensburg High School spoke about early college models across the state, with Auffenberg focusing on the program at Greensburg.

Unlike honors programs, early college high school programs focus on providing students with a complete year of college credit that they can take with them after graduation, and the programs are not reserved for the highest performing students.

To be an early college high school, programs must have eight core principles that are outlined by CELL. The principles are: a targeted student population, usually made up of students such as first generation college attendees who may be underserved in terms of college readiness; a curriculum and plan of study; a college-going culture that makes the high school feel like a college campus; college level rigor; support systems for student success; higher education partnerships and community collaboration; leadership and qualified staffing; and data collection and analysis.

Boyle said a key component that separates dual credit classes from early college schools is the partnership with higher education. Schools can offer general dual credit courses without a partnership with a specific college — and all Dubois County high schools do offer dual credit — but the early college high school model requires a specific partnership.

Another hallmark of the model is that students graduate with a complete year of specific college credits that are applicable toward a two- or four-year degree at the partner college. The programs are also designed to be stackable, meaning that a student can take the credits they earn in high school and apply them to an associate’s degree. Then, they can apply that associate’s degree toward a bachelor’s degree.

For Dubois County students, a similar program is the new Automation and Robotics Academy, a dual credit program made possible by grant money from the Regional Opportunity Initiatives’ Ready Schools Initiative.

The program, which is housed at VUJC, launched this year and allows students to graduate with a certification in industrial technology from Vincennes University, which is the equivalent of the first year of a two-year associate’s degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree.

Dubois County students also have access to a multitude of dual credit, Advanced Placement and career and technical education courses through individual schools and the Patoka Valley Career and Technical Education Cooperative.

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