Students get a head start on college
Lynn students who might not ordinarily set their sights on a college degree have a special chance to pursue that goal as a result of a new initiative.
Through a partnership between the school district and North Shore Community College, a selected group of Lynn Classical High School students will take classes earning both college and high school credits. The students will receive academic support to help them succeed.
Set to get underway in June, the joint effort is being funded through part of a $145,000 state grant to North Shore, and a portion of $4.5 million in federal Race to the Top grant money awarded to Lynn by the state.
The program is based on a 10-year-old educational model known as the Early College High School Initiative. The approach calls for motivating students facing economic and other challenges to pursue a college certificate or degree by enabling them to earn college credits while in high school.
“The idea behind the movement is to reach underserved students in higher education,’’ said Kristin Hunt, who is managing the state grant for the college. “So it tends to be in urban areas, where there are a lot of low-income people.’’
The approach “sounds paradoxical at first,’’ Hunt said. Though students who are already struggling to reach college are being asked to take college-level courses, the evidence shows that with the support provided, it works.
An estimated 270 schools in 28 states now follow the early college model, according to Jobs for the Future, a Boston-based nonprofit that manages the initiative nationally. The group is currently working to establish early college programs in several Massachusetts districts focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“Students who graduate from early college high school programs go on to college at a higher rate than those that are not in those programs,’’ said Jeff Landis, Jobs for the Future spokesman, citing the group’s data.
North Shore already offers a dual enrollment program that allows individual high school students to take courses for credit on campus. But Hunt said the early college creates a new opportunity for students to take college-credit courses as a group at their own high school with significant support.
Lynn Classical students selected for the program will take part in their junior and senior years. The school is in the midst of selecting an initial group of 24 incoming juniors to start this year.
The program is targeting students “who are showing academic potential, but their parents may not have gone to college and they may not know or believe they have the ability to get there,’’ Hunt said.
The college is hiring an achievement coach to work directly with the students, providing them the academic and other support they might need.
The program will start June 26, when the first group of students begins a seven-week summer session at North Shore’s Lynn campus. There they will take a college success seminar, a standard introductory credit course for freshmen that teaches students how to study and other skills they need to succeed.
During the summer session, the students will also take educationally oriented field trips. The students, each of whom will be outfitted with a laptop, will also receive training and support to use software designed to address their individual academic needs.
The first school year, the students will take an English composition course that will earn them three college credits. The regular college course is one semester, but the Lynn students will take it for a year to allow them to master the material and to meet their high school junior-year English requirements.
The summer before their senior year, the students will take another college credit course on the college campus, though the specific course is still to be determined. During their senior year, they will take a math course providing them with three college credits while satisfying their senior-year high school requirements.
The English and math courses will be taught by Lynn Classical teachers using curriculum jointly developed by faculty from the college and the high school. The courses on campus will be taught by North Shore faculty.
North Shore and district faculty will also jointly explore possible changes to the ninth- and 10th-grade curriculum for the city’s three high schools, so students will be better prepared to take college credit courses by their junior year.
“We are very excited to have this pilot program, and we are glad North Shore Community College chose Lynn Classical to be in partnership with them,’’ said Jerry Burke, who chairs Lynn Classical’s English Department and will teach the composition course.
“Most of these kids we are targeting have the skills, but some of them may not have someone in the family who moves them along and gives them confidence to pursue a college degree,’’ he said. The thought is, “with a little more help, this student could be a star,’’ Burke said.
Juli-Ann Ierardi, the school district’s program specialist for the Race to the Top grant, said that if the initiative is successful, the city hopes to offer it to all its high school students.
“Our students need to be able to take college courses as soon as they leave school,’’ she said. “We are trying to bump that up and say they are prepared to take college courses before they leave high school.’’
John Laidler can be reached at email@example.com.