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For Disadvantaged Students, Early College, Not Remedial Ed


For many low-income, disadvantaged students, the distance between high school and university can seem insurmountable, in part because they’re often stuck in failing public schools. Now a new “early college” model can help them bridge the gap. 400 early college high schools across the country offer college-level courses taught by professors, increasing their chances of attaining a bachelor’s degree.

WRM’s own Bard College is at the helm of this movement, having recently opened a high school in Newark. The New York Times reports:

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.

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  • Anthony

    Ethos of catching students up via curricula that is challenging (Locke, Dante, W.E.B. DuBois, et al, as well as science, geometry, and calculus) can only prepare young minds for successful matriculation at next level. Reads like advantageous innovation for American youngsters of a specific demographic – AP and IB courses or their types ought to be pushed more as college preparatory curricula. Cheers WRM and Bard College.

  • Luke Lea

    I was under the impression that most of the students who take college courses while in high school come from advantaged homes and are good students: they were never candidates for remedial education in community colleges.

  • foobarista

    This is a good idea. One of the huge problems for smart kids in poor high schools is extreme boredom, coupled with a generally awful learning environment. Put them in tough, interesting classes with good teachers and without troublemaking idiots and they’d do well.

    Boredom is dangerous for kids; it causes them to do Dumb Things that wreck their lives, and if you show them that academics doesn’t have to be mind-numbingly repetitious and boring, they’ve got a chance to escape their environment.

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