Students in the Early College program earn college credits free of charge and get a “jump start” on college. The cohesiveness of the cohort model helps to promote a college-going culture. Students have an opportunity to explore college and career goals and with smaller caseloads and the Early College counselor has more time to spend with each student.
Identification of Students
Students are identified as potential participants in the Early College program during the first semester of 9th grade. There are several different factors counselors consider when reviewing students’ potential for success in the Early College program, including NWEA test scores, referrals, free/reduced lunch, attendance, teacher recommendations, and the students desire and commitment to being a part of the program. Students who are chosen to participate are expected to work hard in the classroom and obtain good grades. They are expected to be at school on time and on a regular basis and to stay in school for four years with the intent of obtaining a high school diploma and an Ivy Tech Community College Technical Certificate. Students are also expected to be a positive representative of the Early College program with their behavior and attitude.
A key component of the Early College program is assisting parents/guardians through the college enrollment process and involving them with their students. Parent involvement is just as important to the program as the student’s eagerness to succeed. After students are identified as potential participants, both the parents and students meet with school staff to discuss Early College. Parents and students are then given the opportunity to talk about the decision and what it means for their family, and decide if the student wants to participate. If both the parents and student are in agreement, they will both sign a commitment form. Communication with parents becomes vital to the program. If parents, students, teachers, and school personnel create a team – success is more likely to occur.
Early College Program Endorsement
In 2017, all Elkhart Early College Programs became fully endorsed by Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL), the accrediting body for Early College programs. Elkhart Central, Elkhart Memorial, and the Elkhart Area Career Center were the first schools in northern Indiana to become fully endorsed Early College programs, demonstrating the district’s commitment to preparing students to be career/college and life ready. The Elkhart Area Career Center was the first Career Technical Education (CTE) school in the state of Indiana to receive Early College endorsement.
Located at the University of Indianapolis, CELL is the only sanctioned group by the Commission for Higher Education to designate and endorse Early College programs.
The eight guiding principles for CELL endorsement include:
- Targeted student population
- Curriculum and plan of study
- College-going culture
- Rigorous instruction
- Supports for student success
- Collaboration and partnerships
- Leadership and staffing
- Data collection, analysis, and use