The success and sustainability of Early College High Schools depends on strong high school and university partnerships. A critical benchmark for the Early College model includes collaboration, communication, and support services between high schools and higher education partners. Early College partners Vincennes University and Indiana University–Bloomington exemplify the commitment and services required to establish and grow successful Early College High Schools.
Ben Davis University High School and Early College Academy @ Arsenal Tech are partnering with Vincennes University in southern Indiana. The university has bridged the 139 mile divide between Vincennes and Indianapolis by bringing campus services into the high school. When Vincennes University became an Early College partner, it placed Marie Theobald, assistant dean of academic instruction, as a university liaison to work on-site at Ben Davis University High School. Her responsibilities included working cooperatively with the school principal for the smooth operation of the day-to-day instructional operation; communicating with Vincennes academic deans and the director of curriculum to ensure an effective and efficient schedule; supervising the learning coaches in their advising and mentoring of students; recruiting, training and evaluating faculty; and training faculty in the use of Vincennes University instructional and support technology.
Theobald said, “The benefits of having a VU administrator physically in the school helps to develop an understanding of what is important and provides an opportunity to get to know the teachers. They can discuss issues with the principal and resolve issues right away. On-site VU staff also ensure that all students are registered and enrolled in the appropriate classes and that high school staff are certified as adjunct faculty. In addition, we also conduct annual audits and work with high school counselors to ensure that students meet class prerequisites and are on track for both their high school diploma and associate’s degree.”
In addition to the assistant dean of instruction, VU provides a learning coach to guide and mentor teachers at Ben Davis University High School and will place similar staff support at Arsenal Technical High School in the fall. “The presence of such university staff facilitates a stronger and smoother Early College High School implementation and ensures that the rigor of the program and academic integrity can be maintained,” said Theobald
With Ben Davis University High School up and running, Theobald now is serving in the same capacity for Early College Academy @ Arsenal Tech to help with the school’s implementation of the Early College model.
Theobald cites communication as the most important element in establishing a successful high school and university partnership. “We have found that K–12 education has its own language and its own way of doing things. For example, K-12 schools purchase textbooks with a seven-year cycle, whereas at the university, the textbook may change every semester or every other year. Both higher education and K-12 have separate needs. The most critical learning point has been trying to figure out the language and helping each partner understand the needs of the other and getting both systems to work together.”
Indiana University’s Center for P–16 Research and Collaboration is partnering with Riley High School in South Bend and the Monroe County Community School Corporation in Bloomington. Partnering on Indiana’s Early College efforts provided an opportunity for Indiana University to improve the college matriculation rates of traditionally underserved students and to better prepare students for 21st-century careers.
Claire King, associate director of the Center for P–16 Research and Collaboration, serves as the university’s Early College liaison. “The role of liaison, broker or translator is that of trying to understand the needs of the Early College High School partner,” said King. “On the university side, it may be necessary to navigate the process of credentialing teachers to teach university credit courses or providing professional development or graduate classes which would qualify high school teachers to teach college courses. Or, on the high school side, the liaison may assist in determining which courses would benefit the student and be transferable based upon career objectives.”
Acting as translators, university liaisons help high school students and counselors use the Core Transfer Library, which is an online collection of all of the courses universities have agreed to accept as transferable. King said, “Since few schools have adequate funding or staff to navigate external systems to procure and connect to programs and resources, university liaisons are a valuable asset and serve to strengthen Early College High School and university partnerships.”
King also sees her role as helping university faculty understand the importance of ensuring that college and its resources are accessible to first-generation, low-income students. “Not only does it ensure future applicants to the university, but more importantly it serves as a civic duty to open doors of opportunity to the underserved,” said King.
To ensure diverse opportunities for students, Riley High School and Indiana University–Bloomington have extended their partnership to include Notre Dame University, Ivy Tech Community College–South Bend and Indiana University–South Bend. This collaboration has allowed the school to create a clear vision for best serving its students.
“From the very beginning, Riley included the English as a second language and special education teachers as a part of the planning process. They were really thinking about those students who had not been served by dual credit courses in the past—those least likely to attend postsecondary schools and those without someone to advocate for them or those ESL students whose parents may not have been aware of the university opportunities. Having those teachers onboard from the beginning has been really brilliant on the part of Riley High School,” said King.
The Center for P–16 Research and Collaboration also is working with the Monroe County Community School Corporation to establish Early College High Schools at Bloomington High School North and Bloomington High School South. One of the early successes of the Early College/Indiana University partnership was the fostering of a mentoring program with the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce and the university’s graduate students in education. Both groups have established a monthly mentoring program for career and academic support. Indiana University undergraduate students provide tutoring in math and science to Early College High School students.
The role of university liaison plays a vital role in building and sustaining Early College High School and university partnerships. Such pre-collegiate programs and strategic partnerships serve both students and teachers by providing information, mentoring, tutoring, campus visits, scholarship opportunities, and professional development. As a result, students are learning that they have the ability to succeed in college classes, making them more likely to pursue higher education.
Published: February 2009