Mychael Dickerson, the award-winning chief communications officer for Baltimore County Public Schools, discusses how his district engages parents, students, school staff and other stakeholders.
Making College Accessible to All
Story posted July, 2008
• 77% pass rate on state end-of-course exams (compared to a state average of 60.8%)
• 83% pass rate on state end-of-course exams for African-American males (compared to a state average of 44%)
• 100% of students enrolled in college level courses in 2006-2007 passed those courses
The Cumberland County Schools serve 53,000 students. About 55 percent of students qualify for free or reduced- price meals based on federal poverty standards. More than 600 students drop out each year, one of the highest numbers in the state. Although the district has made great strides in educational innovations, the dropout rate is simply not acceptable to the teachers, administrators, parents, partners, and students in the community.
After an extensive review of dropout prevention solutions across the nation, the district decided to partner with Fayetteville State University (FSU) and the New Schools Project to establish an early college high school on the college campus. Cross Creek Early College High School (CCEC) opened in August 2005 with a class of 72 ninth-grade students. An additional grade level has been added each year, bringing the current enrollment to 209 in grades nine through eleven. Nearly three-quarters of these students are economically disadvantaged and nearly all will be first generation college students.
The goal of the school is to improve the college-enrollment rates of traditionally underrepresented groups by exposing them to a rigorous curriculum. All students are enrolled in honors level courses. The small school environment, paired with caring teachers and FSU mentors, builds the foundation for success. Students begin taking college courses in their sophomore year. They'll graduate with a high school diploma and up to two years of college credit, at no expense to the student.
Opening a high school on a college campus was a risky endeavor. Knowing that the project would be scrutinized nationally because it was receiving funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Cumberland County School Board chose to be leaders in the planning process. Development of the comprehensive plan for CCEC took over a year. The board allocated money and led contract negotiations, and it oversaw implementation of the AVID curriculum and the effort to provide transportation to students in surrounding attendance areas.
The CCEC has experienced outstanding results within a brief period. Despite serving a population of at-risk students, the school has outperformed high schools from across the nation. In the first year, CCEC was named a School of Excellence by North Carolina. Last year, it had a pass rate of 77 percent on state end-of-course exams, compared to 60.8 percent for the school district. And black male students had an 83 percent pass rate, compared to 44 percent for the state. In addition, the school has met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards for two years in a row. Although a few students have transferred, none have dropped out.
Of the 70 students enrolled in college level courses in 2006-2007, all passed. According to informal reports from college professors, many CCEC students are outperforming their college-age peers.
Further details about this school can be found at their website:
Cross Creek Early College High SchoolFor additional information, please contact:
Assistant Superintendent, Cumberland County Schools
Story reposted with permission from the American School Board Journal
with the addition of data from:
Rob Cross, County NC News, "Cross Creek Early College High School wins Innovator Award," April 12, 2008
For more information on the Magna Award and to apply, visit http://www.asbj.com/magna