Challenge Early College High School at Houston Community College SW (Texas), a MCNC Member school, is one of this 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. This is aligned with President Obama’s goal of making education the lynchpin to improving the U.S. economy and closing the achievement gap. Challenge joins previous MCNC Blue Ribbon award winners: Middle College HS at Santa Ana College, Middle College HS at San Joaquin Delta College, Greenville Technical Charter High School at Greenville Technical College, Harbor Teacher Preparatory Academy at Los Angeles Harbor College and Middle College High School at 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.”
Written by: Leicha Shaver, Principal and Broderick Maxwell, Project Development Specialist, Franklin D. Roosevelt High School, Dallas TX
Once again Franklin D. Roosevelt High School and Health Science Satellite Magnet in Dallas Independent School District is raising the bar for its students. The school, nestled in the wooded hills near downtown Dallas, Texas, is set to graduate two students with an Associate’s Degree before they walk across the stage with their 2012 graduating class.
“These are the opportunities that we envisioned for our students when we started the program,” Principal Dr. Leicha Shaver said. “We
are dedicated to giving all of our students an opportunity to be academically successful. For some, that has meant pursuing their college studies while still enrolled at Roosevelt.”
Roosevelt is in the third year of its Dual Credit program. Qualifying juniors and seniors leave the high school setting and take college-level courses in a college atmosphere at El Centro Community College. School officials said students not only are gaining the academic successes that come with taking college-level courses, but they are doing so at no cost to them.
Although dual credit is not new to high schools across the country, such programs are not abundant in comprehensive high schools with a socioeconomic status similar to Roosevelt. The 2009-2010 poverty rate of Roosevelt High School students was 83 percent.
“My family, we never really just had much,” said Rhonda Boyce, a 2011 Roosevelt graduate who accumulated 33 hours toward a Bachelor’s Degree in Radio/TV/Film. “I am always looking for opportunities to make sure my family has a better life than they have right now. Dual Credit was not easy, but it was worth it.”
Mr. Marcus Scott, director for Roosevelt’s Dual Credit program, said the school covers the cost of tuition and books for each student participating in the program. This allows students to reap a financial benefit and reduce their overall cost of college while pursuing their college academic ambition while in high school.
Roosevelt students rave about the experiences they have encountered while taking courses at a local community college.
“It really helped me to focus on my studies and become more responsible,” said Larry Green, a participant in the program during its inaugural year. “Going through the Dual Credit program helped me to prepare for life after high school.” Larry is now a junior at Texas Southern University.
Similar success stories are becoming entrenched in the culture around Roosevelt. Zachery Miles graduated from Roosevelt with 12 hours toward Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education. “It definitely makes you grow up,” said Zachery, the youngest of eight siblings. “You can’t be acting childish when you step foot in a college classroom. You have to mature.”
Students undergo a recruitment process that includes a review of their standardized test scores, interests, and teacher recommendations. At Roosevelt, it is now commonplace to see students enrolling in accelerated programs during the summer. By taking economics and government classes, students are able to lighten their course load during the school year to take the college courses. Dr. Shaver said the consistently rising number of students enrolling in summer school at Roosevelt is a clear indication that students are interested in “taking care of their business”.
“We have students who see the benefits of our Dual Credit program,” Dr. Shaver said. “I have students coming to me all the time asking ‘How can I be a part of it?’ The excitement centered around this program has helped spur a renewed vigor for academic excellence around the entire school.”
Roosevelt recently opened a Health Science Satellite Magnet, which allows students to focus on health education careers. These students greatly benefit from the partnerships Roosevelt has already established with higher learning institutions in the Dallas area with its Dual Credit program. “I think it has been phenomenal,” said Antonio Pecina, El Centro Community College Director of School Alliances and Institutional Outreach. “The students gain confidence and strive to be successful. They are able to demonstrate to us and themselves that they can do college work.”
Students’ increased confidence has become contagious around the high school campus. Barbara Clemons, a Roosevelt teacher assistant, said students enrolled in the Dual Credit program hold their heads high when leaving the building for their college courses. “They feel better about themselves,” Mrs. Clemons said. “They are more encouraged to enroll in college because they are doing it now.”
Roosevelt is poised to continue its success with the current Dual Credit model it has established. The school’s students have earned
more than 1,000 college-credit hours since the inception of the program. These hours translate into an overall cost savings for each student who is a part of the program.
“We are excited about the program and its future,” Dr. Shaver said. “We want all our students to have the opportunity to achieve academically at the next level, and this program prepares them for that.”
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