Early College

President Barack Obama referenced Bard High School Early College last week in a speech. It's one example of the "early college" programs that I wrote about earlier this year.

BHSEC is a joint venture by the New York City Board of Education and Bard College. Designed for students who are ready and willing to do college work at age 16, they can cover in four years high school and the first two years of college. At graduation, they will earn an associate of arts (A.A.) degree as well as their high school diploma.

At EarlyColleges.org, you can find out more about the partner organizations of the Early College High School Initiative (Bard is not one of them). They have started or redesigned more than 200 U.S. schools.

I find the idea of the early college very appealing. But, I agree with BHSEC graduate Kesi Augustine, who wrote a piece on the Huffington Post about her experiences there, that it won't work for all students.
"Not every student could learn this way. A few dropped out over the four years despite the supportive network of teachers and faculty available. However, those students did not cop out. BHSEC was emotionally demanding. Those students simply realized that their destiny was in their own hands, as Obama said, and that BHSEC's accelerated method of learning, while it stimulates the mind, requires a sense of maturity some teenagers do not yet have while in high school."

These early colleges are public institutions and charge no tuition. The student populations are generally diverse ethnically and economically. The design of the schools is to offer low-income youth, first-generation college goers, English language learners, students of color, and other young people underrepresented in higher education opportunities.

At BHSEC, there are about 500 students with an average student-to-teacher ration is 20:1.  Admissions receives about 4,000 applications for 135 available spaces. Admissions is based on the student’s academic record, teacher recommendations, writing and math assessments, and an interview which should show evidence of the student's ambition and intellectual curiosity.

I don't know how unique Kesi might be as a Bard graduate, (She is now at Williams College.) but her description of her academic life there sounds encouraging to me.
The typical night of homework included musing over the implications of W.E.B. DuBois' theory of double consciousness, calculating anti-derivatives, and writing about the similarities between Toni Morrison and William Faulkner. During our junior and senior years, the professors expected everyone to read works by writers like Sophocles, Plato, Dante, Darwin, Marx, and Kafka. Those texts were our repertoire--we discussed them together and wrote about their relevance during their time period as well as our own. After taking a contemporary architecture class, my friends and I would walk the streets of Manhattan and jokingly remark, "That is so post-modern."


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