Challenge Early College High School, A MCNC Member School, Wins Prestigious U.S. Blue Ribbon Award

Challenge Early College High School, a MCNC Member school, is a recipient of this year’s U.S. Blue Ribbon award for having its students score in the top 10% on Texas State tests. The award is aligned with President Obama’s goal of making education the lynchpin in improving the U.S. economy, closing the achievement gap, and making US business competitive in the global market place. The MCNC Early College model provides high school students, especially those underserved by their previous schools, the opportunity to earn both a high school diploma and an associate degree, or up to two years of credit toward a bachelor’s degree.

New York, New York (PRWEB) October 04, 2011

Challenge Early College High School @ Houston Community College SW (Texas), a MCNC Member school, is one of this

Dr. Cecilia Cunningham

Dr. Cecilia L. Cunningham, President MCNC

In the 2009-2010 school year 75% of Challenge’s graduating class enrolled in a four year college and 20% in a two year college. This data is a strong indicator of a topnotch Blue Ribbon school.

year’s winners of the prestigious U.S. Blue Ribbon award which is eagerly sought by public and private schools across the country. To qualify, schools must be serving a population that has previously been underserved by their schools. The Blue Ribbon Award rewards schools that have increased student achievement and narrowed the achievement gap. Blue Ribbon schools meet one of two criteria:

  •     They dramatically improve student performance to high levels on state tests;
  •     Their students achieve in the top 10 percent of their state on state tests;

Challenge Early College High School received the Blue Ribbon award for having its students score in the top 10% on Texas State tests. The award is aligned with President Obama’s goal of making education the lynchpin to improving the U.S. economy and closing the achievement gap.    Previous MCNC U.S. Blue Ribbon award winners are Middle College HS @ Santa Ana College, Middle College HS @San Joaquin Delta College, Greenville Technical Charter High School @ Greenville Technical College, Harbor Teacher Preparatory Academy @ Los Angeles Harbor College and Middle College High School @ Contra Costa College. Cecilia Cunningham, founder and director of MCNC, stated that Challenge ECHS has been successful because “The faculty and administration not only deeply care about their students, but they have immersed themselves in professional development to improve their practice. The results of this hard work can be seen in their college going rate. In the 2009-2010 school year 75% of Challenge’s graduating class enrolled in a four year college and 20% in a two year college.” Dr. Cunningham added that “Justin Fuentes, the former principal of Challenge, and his successor, Tonya Miller, are perfect examples of the difference good leadership can make.”


The MCNC Early College model provides high school students, especially those underserved by their previous schools, the opportunity to earn both a high school diploma and an associate degree, or up to two years of credit toward a bachelor’s degree. This dual enrollment initiative exposes students to the college “experience”, rigorous high school and college classes, new ways of viewing the world and getting a head start on a college degree. It also gives the opportunity for high school teachers to align their curriculum with college classes and allows college professors to collaborate with high school faculty. MCNC high schools emphasize embedding college knowledge strategies into practice. The MCNC peer review model is a major part of the professional development to improve teacher practice and increase student achievement. The peer review program is designed to publicly share and discuss teachers’ best practice and is structured around reflective writings and a formal peer review.

Middle College National Consortium, headquartered in New York City, is a leader in the movement to establish and sustain dual enrollment as a viable and necessary educational model. Middle College National Consortium’smission is to develop small schools in which high school students, especially those who have been previously underserved by their former schools, can earn both a high school diploma and either an associate degree or transferable college credits upon graduation.

To learn more about the Middle College National Consortium, visit us at ( for a comprehensive overview of our history, design principles, current work and achievements.

Contact information

Tony Hoffmann

Middle College National Consortium


Coalition of Education Groups to Sponsor a JAM on Scaling the Best of Early College

On Wednesday, November 2, 2011 from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM a coalition of Early College intermediaries will hold a JAM entitled “Scaling the Best of Early College”. A JAM is an online moderated exchange which allows far flung professionals of diverse backgrounds and experiences, who might not ordinarily communicate, to gain from one another’s perspectives. This JAM will bring together early college teachers, college faculty, high school and college administrators, researchers, education professionals and policy makers.

New York, New York (PRWEB) October 17, 2011

A coalition of Early College Intermediaries announced today that they will hold a first of a kind JAM on “Scaling the Best of Early College”. The intermediaries are national and statewide groups that work with underserved youth. They have each had important success in preparing college ready students using Early College models. They hope that the JAM will allow a broad group of practitioners and policy makers to examine Early College and discuss how key elements can be adapted to help large scale public systems equip underserved students for college success and completion.

A JAM is an online moderated exchange. The discussion is asynchronous, so participants come and go as their schedules permit. It allows far flung professionals of diverse backgrounds and experiences, who might not ordinarily communicate, to gain from one another’s perspectives. This JAM will bring together early college teachers, college faculty, high school and college administrators, researchers, education professionals and policy makers.

According to Dr. Cecilia L. Cunningham, founder and director of MCNC (The Middle College National Consortium), “This JAM offers a unique opportunity for educators to share successes and seek solutions to scaling issues.”
The JAM will take place on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 from 11:00 AM-7:00 PM (EST)

The JAM’s sponsors include The-Middle College National Consortium (MCNC), The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, North Carolina New Schools Project, University System of Georgia, Early College Design Services/Jobs For The Future, Gateway to College National Network, and Texas High School Project. Early Collegeschools provide underserved students with a college preparatory experience, which includes rigorous high school and college classes (dual enrollment) that give high school students a head start on a college degree. They also help high school and college faculty to align curriculum and collaborate pedagogically.

To learn more about the “Scaling the Best of Early College…” JAM see an informational video at To register go to For more information contact:

Adana Collins (acollins(at)mcnc(dot)us) at MCNC or

Doris Reeves-Lipscomb (dreeves-lipscomb(at)kpublic(dot)org) at KPI

John Starkey Named the New Principal of International High School


A native of Western New York, Mr. Starkey previously taught ESL and Bilingual Social Studies in various K-12 classes and worked for Mid-Hudson Migrant Education program. He received student teacher training at Queens International HS at LaGuardia Community College under the mentorship of HaroldBretstein.  While teaching History at LaGuardia, Mr. Starkey was a UFT and Personnel Committee chair and parent ESL teacher before transitioning to administration.
Mr. Starkey’s dedication to education is expressed through his love of being in the classroom, working with both students and parents, and helping bring school and community closer. His other passions are basketball and traveling. Mr. Starkey graduated from SUNY College at Buffalo with a BA in Spanishand holds an MA in TESOL from SUNY New Paltz. He shares his life with his wife and11 month old baby, Marisol.

Twenty Years Young

Mott Middle College (MMC), Flint, MI does it right, both in education and in celebration. In May, MMC celebrated its 20th anniversary with an afternoon and evening ceremony and reception. In addition to Principal Chery Wagonlander, the Superintendent of the Genesee ISD, the President of Mott Community College, President of the State School Board and the Executive Director of MCNC participated in the program. Parents and students were a vital part of the celebration. The MMC Concert Choir and the famous Steel Drum Band provided exciting musical tributes. Students in video production presented a documentary highlighting MCC and the new Associates Degree in film production. Dozens of alumni returned to help commemorate this accomplishment. At the celebration, MMC proudly announced the completion of its story, The Differences that Make a Difference. It will be available this summer on line and in print.

Twenty years does not just represent the passage of time, it represents change in both the school and in its students. The school that started as an experiment to help at-risk students finish high school now graduates students with college credits. In 17 graduating classes, students typically start with a D+ average and finish with a B average. In over 5,200 college courses completed, MMC students average a 2.9 GPA. Students no longer have the choice whether to take college classes — it is a requirement. This year six students, including 4 African American males, graduated with enough college credits to earn an associate’s degree.

According to Wagonlander, “It’s an all-school effort. Staff has specific training in working with their particular population. Skills and college knowledge are pre-learned and relearned individually and in seminars. It’s a slow process, you must learn to blow on the ice, because you can’t crack the ice. Our graduates have not only the credits, but an entire way of viewing their lives and their possibilities.”


Teacher Feature: Brittany Clark is a Teacher, Plus, Plus, Plus

Brittany and her resident Janessa Jordan at Prom

Brittany and her resident Janessa Jordan at Prom

Brittany Clark is an MCHS teacher, plus a college adjunct teaching Dual Enrollment English College, plus a Mentor Teacher with the Memphis Teacher Residency Program, plus a Teaching Policy Fellow working with teachers to have a voice in policy decisions that affect the teaching profession. Those could be viewed as four separate roles, but to Brittany they fit into the core of beliefs she has about improving results for students and teachers.

Before making the decision to teach in urban schools, she earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Rhodes College in Memphis and a Masters in Literary Linguistics from the University of Birmingham, England. She plans to begin her doctoral work in Education Policy or Literacy. Brittany Clark teaches 10th through 12th grade English, ACT prep, and Dual Enrollment Composition at Middle College High School at Christian Brothers University, Memphis, TN. Brittany has mentored teachers for the past two years through the Memphis Teacher Residency Program, and is also involved with The New Teacher Project as a consultant working with school districts around the country. At Middle College, Brittany has served as the English Department Chairperson and in-house New Teacher Mentor. In June 2010, she presented a workshop entitled, “Bridging the Gap Between High School and College.” at the Middle College National Consortium summer conference.

The dual-enrolled course she teaches, Composition 1010, takes the place of senior English. It is completely writing based, using inquiry and in depth research. Ms. Clark believes, “This prepares students for all the college disciplines and is therefore a more appropriate course for my students. AP courses also count as freshmen English, but those students don’t learn the necessary skills taught in freshman English.”

One of her favorite roles is that of a Mentor Teacher with Memphis Teacher Residency program. In this program, college graduates in a content area, commit to teaching full time in Memphis City Schools and are mentored for an entire year by a master teacher. Brittany feels that she can help beginning teachers with some insight into organizational systems and consistency with students. One example she cites is “to always have homework due on the same day of the week.” She recalled how hard the first year of teaching was. “I didn’t even know what questions to ask”. Still her work with the residents helps her reflective practice. “Having to explain why I do something in a certain way helps me be a better educator. My residents also bring a sense of vibrancy to the classroom and keep me up-to-date with new technologies such as downloading of videos to use in the classroom.” (Photo: Brittany and her resident Janessa Jordan at the prom)

MCHS Principal Michelle Armstrong has high praise. “Brittany and a number of other teachers in our building are really leading the way in terms of mentoring. We have had eight aspiring teachers move on to teaching positions through the Memphis Teacher Residency (MTR) program, which is an affiliate of the national Urban Teacher Residency Program. Given the small size of our high school, it has been a true compliment that MTR placed so many residents at our school in just two years. Brittany and Felicia Anthony have served as mentors for both years, and it has been amazing to watch them grow through their mentoring relationships. They are testaments to evolving as a teacher when you have to teach someone else what you do.”

It would seem that her schedule is already tightly packed, but Ms. Clark is also passionate about the Teach Plus network, a rapidly growing national movement of teachers who want to connect with highly-motivated peers and national and local policy leaders, learn about innovative policies to empower effective teachers, and be a voice for change within the teaching profession. The Memphis network began in October 2010 and has engaged over 200 teachers.

Ms. Clark became involved in Teach Plus because she perceived that teachers are always being told, “this is what’s happening”, and they didn’t understand what or why. This was then a chance to look deeply into the policies of the state and the district. Along with the federal “Race to the Top” funding came a new evaluation system. One goal of Teach Plus is to have teachers have a voice in the evaluation system. They wanted to collect data on what teachers were saying, something never done before. Teachers wanted to know how they were going to measure the teachers’ content knowledge. Would even those with masters degrees have to be re-examined? How much would student “value added” standardized tests be counted in evaluation and in teacher retention? How could the prior year results be used to motivate both students and teachers?

Her goal is to grow as a teacher and to develop leadership avenues that are not administrative. According to Principal Armstrong, Brittany is succeeding. “In addition to her mentoring, Brittany’s work with Teach Plus is really helping our building grow in our knowledge of how policy is affecting our work, specifically regarding understanding student growth and achievement data and how these data points inform and impact teacher practice and accountability. It feels good to work at a school where so many other people are leaders, not just the principal!”

Middle College and International High Schools Encourage Students to Stay for a Fifth Year

 LaGuardia Community College, part of the City University of New York, is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges. Founded in 1971, the College has been recognized as an innovator in educating students who are under-prepared for college work and/or are not primary English speakers. A catalyst for development in western Queens and beyond, LaGuardia serves New Yorkers and immigrants from 160 countries through 50 majors and certificate programs, enabling career advancement and transfer to four-year colleges at twice the national average.

Written By: Randy Fader-Smith, LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City, NY


While most high school seniors cannot wait to grab their diplomas and leave their high school days behind, over 60 percent of the students in Middle College High School and International High School’s last graduating class, came back for a fifth year.

Administrators at these five-year institutions, located on the campus of LaGuardia Community College, say the reasons are varied, but the main lure is the College’s very attractive financial packages that are offered at a time when college tuition and fees are off the charts. The fifth-year students, many of whom have already amassed college credits from LaGuardia, will continue to take tuition-free courses. Also included are free books and Metrocards.

The Early College at Middle College exemplifies LaGuardia’s 40-year history of pioneering new educational methods to respond to evolving student needs. When Middle College Early College was established in 2002 it became the first early college in the nation, and remains the model for the 201 early college schools throughout the nation. Following this paradigm, all early colleges have their students enroll in high school courses in the ninth and tenth grades, and by the second half of the tenth, encourage them to begin taking college courses.

“They are staying for many different reasons, but the prevailing reason is the sweet financial inducements,” said Linda Siegmund, principal of Middle College High School. “By staying one more year, some students can get enough credits to enter college as an advanced sophomore, while others can obtain enough credits to graduate LaGuardia with an associate’s degree.”

Brandon Ashley is one of those students. Brandon was planning on going to a state college after graduating from Middle College when his parents convinced him that it made financial sense to stay a fifth year. Entering the fall semester with 27 college credits, Brandon is on track to receive his associate’s degree by the time he completes his fifth year in August of 2011. “It is a package deal that you cannot beat,” said Brandon, who plans on transferring to an upstate college to pursue an engineering degree.

Jose Mendoza also saw the financial benefits of a fifth year, but he said what also helped make up his mind was the criminal justice major offered at LaGuardia. With 30 credits already under his belt, Jose explained that by the end of August he will have his associate’s degree, and will then go on to transfer to John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s baccalaureate program the following fall.

Both high schools have worked closely with LaGuardia to provide the students with a positive college experience. While students can take any college course offered by LaGuardia, they can also take courses developed and team taught by college and high school instructors as well as college courses taught by certified high school teachers.

“There has always been a solid partnership between LaGuardia and the high schools,” said Dr. Peter Katopes, Interim President. “Through this collaboration, we will continue to share expertise and resources and provide these students with a fruitful college experience.”

The early colleges have built into their programs a strong support system, a feature that Ms. Siegmund said is another reason students stay. During this transitional year, students participate in a teacher-run seminar several times a week where they discuss their college work. “The teachers have the syllabi of each student, and know how each student is doing in their classes,” she said. “This prevents a student from falling through the cracks.” Dr. Cecilia Cunningham, Director of the Middle College National Consortium, noted that the support system is one of the reasons for the students’ 80 percent college course pass rate. “It just points to the fact that kids need a lot more mandated support during that transition to a new institution.”

Ann Trzcinski, a Middle College teacher, noted that the fifth year can also help those students who are not quite sure what academic direction to take. Patrick Managhan, a fifth-year student, said that he was “lost” during his senior year so his teachers encouraged him to go the fifth year so that he could explore his options. “They were very supportive and believed in me,” said Patrick who is taking English, history and Introduction to Language this semester. “That is why they have this program. They want us to succeed in life.”

Students at International High School are staying for the same reasons, but John Starkey, a Program Leader, said that for these students, who had been in this country four years or less when they enrolled, the fifth year gives them more time to improve their English. Mr. Starkey described Tenzin Lekze, a native of Nepal who immigrated to the U.S. six years ago, as a shining star. “She would have been successful at any college she attended, but chose to work toward her associate’s degree while strengthening her English language skills.” Tenzin said, “Having one more year to improve my English, will give me the added confidence I need when I transfer to a four-year college.”

It is clear that the fifth year at LaGuardia Community College is an outstanding path for many Middle-Early college students.

Twin Scholarships for Stanford Bound Duo

It is a privilege to spend an hour talking with Jennifer and Benjamin Ezeokoli, 2011 graduates of Middle College High School and Contra Costa College, San Pablo, CA.  Along with a High School Diploma and multiple Associates’ Degrees, they’ve each been awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships including the Gates Millennium Scholarship, that completely supports students through a PhD degree. Earlier this year, the Contra Costa Times wrote, “She gives new meaning to the phrase ‘beating the odds’. The 17-year-old Oakland girl has overcome neighborhood violence and drugs, the foreclosure of her Richmond home, and her mother’s car accident. Jennifer seems to welcome a challenge, and a little competition.” “When you’re twins, people compare you,” said Jennifer, “but I’ve learned it’s healthy competition. I’m not competing against him; I just want to be the best that I can be.”

To be the best, Jennifer has had to work, at times doing door-to-door sales in scary neighborhoods in order to help support the family. “It was a lot to have on my shoulders, but as I grew older, I understood why that was placed on me. I understood that if I wasn’t there, who was going to help my parents do it.”

When the twins were in their teens, the family moved into a house in Richmond and they enrolled in the local middle school. It was there that the Contra Costa MCHS Leadership students came to the campus to talk to the eighth graders.

“I liked the fact that it was much smaller, that you got more help and support,” she said. “I didn’t want to miss that.”

After two years at MCHS, the family lost their Richmond home to foreclosure and moved back to Oakland, but Benjamin and Jennifer were determined to stay at MCHS. That meant that on a typical day, they were up and out of the house at 6:30, taking BART and bus to San Pablo. The commute was well worth it. The main thing she cherishes about her high school experience was the intellectual freedom afforded on a college campus. Benjamin loved the sheer variety of courses and the opportunity to develop independence. They agree that the smallness of the school allows for closer relationships and guidance at every step. Both credit college tutoring and early college seminars with helping their success. They are now paid tutors for other students in the sciences.

Jennifer is interested in the mysteries involving the brain, both the biology and the chemistry. “I like the thought that I can heal people physically,” she explains. “I just want to go into pediatric cardiology in order to give children the opportunity to live their lives.” Benjamin, who has taken many courses in biotechnology with extra mathematics and other sciences, is planning to become a doctor as well.

Benjamin credits one of his chemistry professors who found out what credits he had and helped him explore his potentials and apply his skills. Jennifer appreciates the support she got from teachers, administrators, and professors who always challenged and helped her do her best. Both value their high school and college with allowing them to develop a collegial relationship with college professors.

Before selecting Stanford for their undergraduate studies, they separately visited many prestigious colleges, including Harvard, Princeton, and Johns Hopkins. They liked other schools, but both felt that many of the eastern schools had a more formal atmosphere than they would like. Although they each have about 100 college credits, they will enter Stanford as freshmen. Jennifer explained, “I will have the knowledge of all those units I’ve earned, so I can enroll in more advanced courses right away. After all, if I’m going to Stanford why would I want to go for only two years?”

To this brother and sister duo, Middle College at Contra Costa College is their “normal”, a place where you don’t have to just know, you can explore. It’s a place where every student shines bright.


MCNC Middle-Early Colleges – A Few FAQs

Middle-Early Colleges (M-ECs) are small schools where students enroll in high school and college classes, and graduate with both a high school diploma and 1-2 years worth of transferable college credits. The Middle College National Consortium (MCNC) is an intermediary organization that develops M-ECs, a sub-group of its Middle College High Schools.

Written By: Elisabeth Barnett and Kristen Bucceri, National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching (NCREST)

During the 2009-2010 school year, there were 20 Middle-Early Colleges in the MCNC nationwide, out of 34 MCNC member schools in total. Of these, 18 responded to the annual survey of Early Colleges administered by Jobs for the Future. Their answers were compiled by NCREST – and they paint an interesting picture of the practices and features of MCNC Middle-Early Colleges.

What students do Middle-Early Colleges serve?


The students in M-ECs are 80% non-white and 67% qualify for free or reduced lunch. Fifty-six percent are girls and 10% have limited English proficiency (LEP). Although two schools admit students strictly by lottery, the rest indicated that they use a variety of admissions criteria in student selection. In the survey, schools were asked whether they “consider” or “prefer” candidates based on different social and academic criteria. Table 1 shows the percent of schools that use each of these criteria when deciding whether to admit students. Schools also revealed that they receive lots of applications. Of those who applied in 2009, only about a quarter (27%) were admitted.



Do all Middle-Early Colleges look the same?

The answer is no.  While 56% of M-ECs have a liberal arts theme, a number of schools focus on a specific career field.  Seventeen percent of schools concentrate on math, science, and technology while six percent of schools focus on teacher preparation. Some M-ECs target a specific student population.  For example, 11% of schools have ESL/bilingual themes, meaning that they specifically target English Language Learners.  One school focuses on dropout recovery while another works with recent immigrant students.


Do all M-ECs offer the same program? 

Once again the answer is no.  Although the M-EC model provides for some common components across schools, these schools have considerable freedom to design a program that fits the needs of their specific state, community, and student population. For example, while all M-ECs stress student support and provide tutoring for students, the features of the tutoring program vary from school to school.   One goal that all schools have in common in their tutoring programs is an increase in math skills.  Most schools’ tutoring programs also provide support for other academic subject development (92% of schools), literacy skills development (82%), high school exam preparation (82%), and support with college classes (76%).


What opportunities do students have to take college courses?

Among the M-ECs, 74% of 10th grade students are enrolled in college classes, while 98% of 12th graders were taking college classes. Table 2 shows the extent to which students have opportunities to take college courses and the average credits that they had earned by the time of graduation. All M-ECs offered college courses taught by regular college professors. In addition, 44% had high school teachers offering some of their college courses and 11% offered classes co-taught by both a college and high school instructor.


For more information on Middle-Early Colleges, please keep your eye on the MCNC website ( where NCREST reports are regularly posted.