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UMFK IS INCUBATING MAINE'S FIRST EARLY COLLEGE HIGH SCHOOL

August 23, 2011

NR11086

Classes at the University of Maine at Fort Kent won’t begin until next week, but twenty high school juniors already are earning college credit at the University thanks to a collaborative effort between UMFK and the local school administrative district. 

With the start of the 2011-2012 academic year, the Pleasant Street Academy is open for business with a cohort of 20 juniors from Fort Kent’s Community High School (FKCHS). The students will be part of the state of Maine’s first early college high school, with UMFK and FKCHS serving as its incubator. 
 
The Academy’s first students will continue their path towards a high school diploma, while at the same time earning college credit toward an associate or baccalaureate degree at UMFK, or elsewhere.  
 
Students may earn upwards of 16 college credits during their junior year, and more during their senior year. As the program grows and develops, future students will be able to achieve an associate’s degree by the time they complete their high school education.
 
The Pleasant Street Academy Early College High School project will be piloted in its first year through the collaboration effort of UMFK and FKCHS. In year two, the project will be expanded to other partner high schools in the region. When fully implemented, upwards of 150 students will be enrolled.
 
The Pleasant Street Academy is an equal partnership between the University and FKCHS, with both entities allocating funds for the endeavor. Classes will be taught both at UMFK and FKCHS, by professors and teachers. 
 
The University sees the outcomes of the Early College High School initiative as:
 
        greatly improved high school student access to college
        improved student completion rates in college programs
        increased baccalaureate degree attainment by students
        better prepared students for the workforce
        a new model of community education designed for the needs of Maine’s under-    served rural student population
 
The Pleasant Street Academy Early College High School is the dream-come-to-fruition of Scott Voisine, UMFK’s newly-appointed Dean of Community Education. Voisine had conceptualized the Pleasant Street Academy for years; planning for the day, or year, that it could realized.
 
Early college high school is a bold concept in education. It blends high school and college in a rigorous, yet supportive program, compressing the time it takes for a student to complete a high school diploma and their first two years of college. But early college high school is not a program simply for the academically-gifted student. It is designed to serve a broad range of students.
 
Working together with Voisine to implement the pilot project that will guide implementation elsewhere in the state are: Timothy Doak, superintendent of schools for Maine School Administrative District 27/Alternative Organizational Structure 95; Dr. Mariella R. Squire, UMFK associate professor of Anthropology and Sociology; Dr. Paul F. Buck, III, assistant professor of History & Education; Dr. Raymond T. Albert, UMFK professor of Computer Science; Valerie Plourde-Ouellet, FKCHS History teacher; Lorie Voisine, FKCHS English teacher; and, John Kaleta, FKCHS Life Sciences teacher.
 
Earlier this year, five members of the joint UMFK/FKCHS team travelled to Buncombe County Early College in Asheville, North Carolina to learn, first-hand, how an early college high school works. The team spoke with students, faculty, and staff at the five-year program, which has an enrollment of more than 200 students. 
 
The Buncombe County Early College program is one of the pioneering programs in the country. The western North Carolina program was established in 2004. 
 
According to Voisine, the trip to Asheville allowed the UMFK/FKCHS team to validate many of its plans for The Pleasant Street Academy Early College High School.   The trip provided local organizers with a primer in best practices in developing an early college high school, as well as warning them of potential pitfalls that should be avoided.
 
During the past seven years, UMFK and its K-12 partners in the highly-successful College Community Project have offered several collaborative bridging programs for students throughout the St. John Valley. 
 
The Pleasant Street Academy initiative calls for the expansion of the College Community Project partnership to create Maine’s incubator Early College High School. The model is based upon other successful early college high school initiatives sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Dell Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Lumina Foundation for Education, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. The three-year goal of the initiative is to bring together a university campus (UMFK) and area high schools into Maine’s first early college high school. 
 
Early college high schools are unlike dual enrollment programs, Advanced Placement, or other pre-college programs, both in their reach and coherence, and in their blended academic programs.
  
Early college high schools:
 
        integrate students’ high school and college experiences, both intellectually and socially
        blend the curriculum as a coherent unit, with high school and college-level work melded into a single academic program that meets the requirements for both a high school diploma and grants college credits through the postsecondary partner institution, enabling students to accumulate credits toward a degree from the postsecondary institution, or transfer them to another college 
 
Typically, early college high schools are small schools, designed so that students can earn both a high school diploma and credit toward a college degree. They have demonstrated great potential to improve high school graduation rates, and better prepare students for high-skilled careers. The central concept involves engaging students in a rigorous, college-level curriculum, which compresses the number of years required to achieve a college degree.
 
Early college high school students are better prepared to succeed in college if they have experienced the rigors and stresses of college life and learning; been supported and guided through all parts of their educational transition; and, been shown that barriers to college are surmountable with the proper assistance, information, and guidance.
 
The success of the Pleasant Street Academy Early College High School program in achieving its outcomes will, ultimately, provide insights into the efficacy of similar programs on a broader scale throughout rural Maine.