In fall 2015, 193 students between the ages of 16 and 18 began their first semester at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) as college juniors. These young people—the majority first-generation college goers, low-income, Hispanic, and from families where English is not the first language—are graduates of El Paso’s early college high schools (ECHSs) and El Paso Community College (EPCC).
The El Paso experience is attracting nationwide attention. Please examine this comprehensive new report from Jobs for the Future and the Greater Texas Foundation. You can get more information about the benefactors in the document, which is well-presented and worthy of widespread distribution and discussion.
El Paso is a significant location to contemplate for widespread replication, since the metropolitan area contains all the ingredients regarding the challenges and opportunities for the future of Texas and the nation.
For the uninitiated, Early College High Schools are small public schools with built-in academic and social supports that integrate college courses with high school requirements starting in ninth grade. The 193 El Paso students had completed their associate’s degrees either before or concurrent with high school graduation.
Naturally there are caveats, but please peruse the entire report, as many questions likely raised by faculty at community colleges are addressed in the narrative. There are plenty of charts and other graphic illustrations, plus endnotes for documentation.
One student interviewed said she had been chosen by lottery for the program, which would appear to get around the thorny issue of cherry-picking good students who would succeed anyway. On the other hand, those who come forward to compete for a position will likely have good parental support. (That's also the consensus of opinion regarding specialized charter schools that display good success with lottery-picked students.) Good parenting matters.
Another issue is money, of course. There is extraordinary student advisement and intervention going on in El Paso, and the revenue must come from somewhere. Pilot programs are one thing, but massive replication is another. Smaller schools may have trouble getting it all done due to limited resources, even if grants are available.
The program is also very complex, with a lot of moving parts among the various layers of education. It may be difficult to avoid a tentacular bureaucracy that could morph into a Rube Goldberg cartoon device.
All the same, please have a look. Very promising.