Bard’s goals are unapologetically ambitious, mimicking those at its other schools. Most teachers have doctorates, and some of its curriculum is borrowed from the college itself. Freshmen and sophomores cram yearlong high school math, social studies and science classes into one-semester chunks. Juniors and seniors — they’re called first years and second years — take 60 credits’ worth of college-level courses, on Caribbean literature, multimedia studies and Shakespeare. A series of classes known in Bard parlance as “seminar,” a replica of the series taught on the college campus, explores ancient philosophers and great American and European thinkers.The ethos of early college high schools: catch students up, not by relegating them to the kind of remedial classes required at community colleges but by bombarding them with challenging work. At the Bard school, that means works by Dante, Locke and W.E.B. Du Bois that have populated and enriched the lives of their more affluent peers.
Other “early college high schools” graduate their students with a higher degree. Students at P-Tech, a collaboration between the City University of New York and IBM, attend high school for six years, not four. During their last two years, students complete college work and study computer science, graduating with an Associate’s Degree and a top spot in line for a job at IBM.Higher ed can be an uphill climb for low-income students; they graduate far less than their wealthier counterparts and are often the first in their families to attend college. But these schools have seen their share of successes at beating these odds. At Bard’s, for example, 21 of 29 seniors were accepted into a four-year college.