EARLY COLLEGE BLUEPRINT

The Early College High School Program offers students the opportunity to graduate simultaneously with a high school diploma and an associate degree—all for free. ECHS is hosted through a partnership with Austin Community College.

In addition to earning college credit—up to 60 hours—and preparing for future professions, students save thousands of dollars in college costs. ECHS students are enrolled in both high school and college classes and receive support from HSAPf teachers and their ACC professors to ensure that they are on the right track to a successful college career.

Benchmark 1: TARGET POPULATION

The Early College High School shall serve, or include plans to scale up to serve, students in grades 9 through 12, and shall target and enroll students who are at risk of dropping out of school as defined by the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) and who might not otherwise go to college.

Benchmark 2: PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT

The Early College High School shall have a current, signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for each school year that:
  1. Defines the partnership between the school district(s) and the institution(s) of higher education (IHE) and addresses topics including, but not limited to, the ECHS location; transferability of college credit between a 2-year and 4-year institution; the allocation of costs for tuition, fees, and textbooks; and student transportation;
  2. States that the school district or charter in which the student is enrolled shall pay for college tuition (for all dual credit courses, including retakes), fees (including TSI administration fees), and required textbooks to the extent those charges are not waived by the partner IHE;
  3. Defines an active partnership between the school district(s) and the IHE(s), which shall include joint decision-making procedures that allow for the planning and implementation of a coherent program across institutions; and • Includes provisions and processes for collecting, sharing, and reviewing program and student data to assess the progress of the ECHS.

Benchmark 3: P-16 LEADERSHIP INITIATIVES

The school district and institution(s) of higher education (IHE) partners shall develop and maintain a leadership team that meets regularly (e.g., quarterly) to address issues of design, implementation, ongoing implementation, and sustainability. Membership should include the Early College High School leader and individuals with decision-making authority from the district(s) and IHE(s).

Benchmark 4: CURRICULUM AND SUPPORT

The Early College High School shall provide a rigorous course of study that enables a participating student to receive a high school diploma and complete the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s (THECB) core curriculum (as defined by the Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §4.28), obtain certifications, or earn an associate’s degree, or earn at least 60 credit hours toward a baccalaureate degree during grades 9-12. The ECHS shall provide students with academic, social, and emotional support in their course of study.

Benchmark 5: ACADEMIC RIGOR AND READINESS

The Early College High School shall administer a Texas Success Initiative (TSI) college placement exam (as defined by TAC §4.53) to all accepted ECHS students to assess college readiness, design individual instructional support plans, and enable students to begin college courses based on their performance on the exam.

Benchmark 6: SCHOOL DESIGN

The Early College High School must provide a full-day program (i.e., full day as defined in PEIMS) at an autonomous high school (i.e., a high school with ECHS leader assigned to ECHS responsibilities who has scheduling, hiring, and budget authority), an IHE liaison with decision-making authority, and a highly qualified staff with support and training.