District claims that the school is meeting higher education goals.
When the William S. Hart Union High School District created its first Early College High School last fall, it had a primary goal of encouraging students to attend college who were ready to take on the challenges of high school and college. With first semester grades now in, it appears that the school is well on its way to meeting those goals.
The school opened this fall with ninth grade only on the new Canyon Country campus of College of the Canyons, where ECHS students attend five high school classes each day and take two carefully selected college classes at COC. At the end of the first semester, ECHS students had completed 281 college credits and earned an average 3.2 grade point average (GPA) in their high school classes.
“Looking at our academic results for the first semester, I can enthusiastically answer yes to the question, ‘Can a 13-year-old really be successful in college?’” said Principal Erum Jones.
ECHS attracts a diverse student body, with 42 percent of the students identifying themselves as Hispanic, 34 percent white and 24 percent other ethnic categories. A third of the students qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. A number of students in the program are the first in their family to attend college.
More than 70 percent of the ECHS students take advantage of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, which helps students attain skills they need to be successful in high school and college classes. The extra effort paid off, with more than half of students enrolled in AVID courses maintaining a grade point average of 3.0 and above.
A majority of ECHS students, 60 percent, earned a GPA of 3.0 and higher in their high school classes during the school’s initial semester, with 24 percent of the students earning a GPA of 4.0 and higher. Of students who earned GPAs of 3.0 and higher, one-third were white, one-third Hispanic and one-third other ethnicities.
On the college front, ECHS students attempted 304 college credits, with a 92 percent completion rate. The average grade point average for ECHS students was 2.63 for college courses, but 47 percent of ECHS students maintained a college GPA of 3.0 or higher.
In addition to academic achievement, 38 percent of ECHS students had perfect attendance for the first semester—no easy task since COC’s Canyon Country campus was still under construction during the school’s first days, and students attended their first ECHS classes in temporary classrooms on COC’s Valencia campus.
Jones attributed much of her school’s success to her dedicated staff. “I am so proud of my teaching and support staff,” Jones affirmed.” I am fortunate to have a group of people that are dedicated to making sure each student has every opportunity to be successful. From the classroom to the office out to the parking lot, my students know that they are our priority.”
ECHS opened its doors this fall with 86 students in ninth grade only. The school will add one grade a year until it offers a full four year high school program, with a projected enrollment of 400 students. Small class size and a strong support system help students meet the challenges of an early college high school experience.
“It is extremely satisfying to see the tremendous growth in the academic maturity of my students,” Jones concluded. “It is amazing to see kids transform before your eyes and move from giddy freshman to responsible college students.”
Jones and her staff also received kudos from Vicki Engbrecht, assistant superintendent of instructional services. "Mrs. Jones and her staff have been successful in creating a very supportive environment that helps students to achieve at high levels in very rigorous courses,” Engbrecht said. “I am very impressed with the students' progress at the end of the first semester."