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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Early College High School - Report

Remember the drama last year when Bit Boy wanted to try Junior High School?

And then, after I busted my butt getting it set up, how he decided, "Na, I'd rather sleep in in the mornings."?


So, a couple of months ago Bit Boy let me know that he'd like to consider going to high school, and a couple of weeks ago he told me "Yes, I am definitely going to high school next year."  This time I wasn't taken by surprise, and made some calls.  We'll be taking tours of local high schools in the coming months.

Today we visited the Colorado Early Colleges High School, Fort Collins campus.  The Early College High School is a state charter school, not really part of our local school district, although it is located in the city closest to us.

I was pretty impressed with the program.  Bit Boy was ready to sign up on the spot.  (It might have had something to do with the 3 different girls there who recognized him and said "Hi Bit Boy!" with happy little giggles.)

Colorado Early College Fort Collins (from here on called CECFC) is in it's first year in Fort Collins, but it's 6th year in Colorado Springs.  The campus is located in a building that was obviously designed as an office building, but previously home to the Heritage Christian Academy.  Much of the current CECFC staff came here from the Colorado Springs campus, and are bringing that expertise to this campus.

CECFC seems like a sweet deal.  Their goal is to get their students prepped for college, then get them going on college credits, working towards 2 years of undergrad courses, an Associates degree, or certification in a desired trade.  Students can go part or full time.  They give the students college prep courses, and get them in college courses as soon as they're ready.  All of the high school courses, and many of the college credit courses are offered at the local CECFC high school campus.  The classes are taught by CEC teachers Front Range Community College teachers, and, in at least one case, by a teacher who is also a  CSU Assoc. Prof.  For students wanting college courses not offered on the CECFC campus, they can take courses at Front Range Community College, or at Aims Community College.  (CECFC is also working to develop relationships with Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado.)  Students can earn up to 60 hours of college credit concurrent with their high school diploma.  That 60 credits can be an Associates Degree or the first 2 years of a Bachelors (of Arts or Science) degree.  They work with students to make sure the credits will transfer to an in-state college.  If the student is wanting to go out of state to college, they will help the student make choices that will facilitate that end as well.

Personally I don't care much about the high school diploma.  It doesn't mean a lot these days, and we had always planned on Bit Boy going straight to college.  On the other hand, one thing I like about CEC is that they're pretty much doing what I had planned for Bit Boy to do, but on the state's dime.  Until this year, we haven't used public funds to educate our children, but I'm ok with them helping to pay for college credits. ;-)  This also is appealing because I've realized that while Bit Boy may be academically ready for college, his (lack of) organization skills and his social needs would be better met in a high school.

We were touring as classes passed and I was pleased to see the normal teen interactions going on.  Chatting, rough housing, and camaraderie were all in evidence.  That sounds silly of me to have noticed, but I had  imagined it could be rather sterile, and impersonal environment where the kids all had their noses to the grindstone.  Since one of Bit Boy's primary reasons for wanting high school is a chance to interact with other teens, that would have been a deal breaker.  The councilor that we spoke with assured me that while there are no "extras" like band, orchestra, football, etc., the students are encouraged and supported in starting extra curricular after school activities such as choir, theatre, and various clubs.  They also have traditional events such as homecoming and prom.

Random bits:
The school runs classes on the semester schedule, not a year long schedule.
Most classes are offered MWF to coordinate with the community college schedule.
On T and Th  the common room is staffed with 2 tutors who are there to assist the students with any academic help they need. Students sign a contract with the school when they take off campus college courses - the school pays for the course, BUT if the student receives less than a grade of "C" in the course, the student must reimburse the school the tuition cost.
No on site class is larger than 24 students.
If 12 or more students come together to request a class that isn't currently available, the school will make every effort to create and staff that class within a semester.

I think this would be a much better option than the PSD Global Academy for high school aged homeschool students, or for students for whom a traditional high school isn't attractive for some reason.

This would not be a good program for a student who wanted sports, or large music ensembles like marching band or orchestra.  With it's small numbers, it wouldn't work for a student who wanted to blend into the crowd or have a large school experience.  It also wouldn't be a good fit for a student who wanted a high school with lot of the "extra" courses that are fun to explore (shop, ceramics, drama classes, etc).  This is not a traditional high school.

However, for a student ready and willing to work toward their own goals, who wanted an intimate experience and was willing to do without a more traditional high school experience, this might be a very good fit.  I asked Bit Boy why he thought it was a good fit for him.  He said "They are used to dealing with homeschoolers, and they're willing to help me do what I want."

As a parent, I see that this gives Bit Boy a more of a "high school" experience than he would have if he continued homeschooling, at the same time it could help him meet the goals he's been aiming for.  And, let's not forget, it could save us up to 2 years of college tuition.  What's not to like about that?


Shawn Walter said...

And he already knows at least 1 kiddo in the program so he could talk to her about it. Though her goals are different than his, he could still get a feel for things.

April said...

Actually he knows at least 3 girls and one boy in this years freshman class. :-) Built in friends!