June 10, 2011. Retrieved online June 15, 2011 from AUTHOR, Las Cruces Bulletin
Early college high school’s first year deemed a success
Las Cruces Public Schools is reporting that all 112 freshmen in its early college high school will be returning to begin classes in its new building on the New Mexico State University campus.
A community group of educators and business leaders called The Bridge pushed for the creation of an early college high school as a national best practice for academically focused students to take classes at a university or college campus environment. Early college high schools enjoy a 95 percent graduation rate, nationally.
LCPS opened the new school last July before construction began on its building at NMSU’s Arrowhead Center. Doña Ana Community College provided classroom space for the first group of students.
The Arrowhead Park Early College High School (APECHS) prepares students to graduate with both a high school diploma and a twoyear college degree in four years. APECHS students completed their first college-level dual credit course, ninth- and 10th-grade honors English classes and posted district-leading attendance rates. “I like that we’re a small community and we all know each other,” said student Marina Calderon. “We’re like a big family. Here we all communicate with each other, and we’re all under four teachers. Our school motto is ‘We are the Trailblazers.’ So without the teachers taking that risk for the first-year students, we wouldn’t be anything.”
Four of its initial 116 students left the school because of moves or transfers. Most APECHS students are the first in their family to attend a college class and those “at risk” for not completing high school nor pursuing a college degree. Their average grade point average is 3.167. Almost one-third of the students had higher than a 3.5 GPA, and almost two-thirds held higher than a 3.0.
In a comprehensive high school, the freshman year is when almost half of the total dropouts in a class occur. Based on the most recent countywide dropout rate of 49 percent, statistically 27 of these students should have dropped out in a traditional environment.
The new $18 million APECHS campus reflects a 16 percent savings on cost per student, or $42 million in savings to the district. The cost per square foot of the 64,260-square-foot campus is half that of the new $100 million Centennial High School, which is also under construction.
“This is the way we need to think about education for the future of our city, our county, and our state,” said LCPS Superintendent Stan Rounds. “The early college high school model is extremely effective in other parts of the country. In fact, 10 percent of incoming juniors at UTEP are graduates from El Paso’s five early college high schools.”
APECHS is the first early college high school in New Mexico. “We are so proud of the students and staff of this school,” said Kari Mitchell, one of the founders of The Bridge and its current board vice president. “They’ve done an incredible job this year, and we are looking forward to having these well prepared,highly motivated students become part of our county’s future workforce.”
Read the Las Cruces Bulletin article.