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ACC Partners with Area School Districts to Launch New Early College High Schools

The Austin Community College District announces partnerships with Elgin and Bastrop school districts to offer Early College High School programs that provide hundreds of students the opportunity to earn a two-year college degree while in high school.

The Texas Education Agency earlier this month approved ACC Early College High School (ECHS) programs for Elgin and Bastrop ISDs, clearing the way for those school boards to approve their plans for implementation.

ECHS students take high school and college courses concurrently, allowing them to gain college credits and potentially earn an associate degree or career and technical certificate before they graduate high school. ECHS programs are funded through public-private partnerships, grants, and shared-cost agreements, enabling school districts to offer the programs at no charge to students.

“What’s important is the collaborative spirit to create new pathways to college at younger ages that will keep students motivated and provide incentives to graduate high school with college credit,” says Dr. Richard Rhodes, ACC President/CEO. “Early College High School will lead to a higher educated populace and produce more individuals who are ready for successful careers.”

ECHS programs typically target a broad range of academic backgrounds and reach students often under-represented in college, including minorities, those from low-income families, and those who are first in their family to attend college.

The two proposed agreements would be tailored to the specific needs of each school district, with college classes held at ACC’s Elgin Campus. Generally, participating students take college prep courses and credit-earning classes at the high school during 9th and 10th grades, and at Elgin Campus during 11th and 12th grades.

“I cannot emphasize enough what a game-changer this is for our students and for Elgin ISD,” says Jodi Duron, Elgin ISD superintendent. “The fact that a student can earn college credits up to an associate degree — free of charge to our families— is truly an opportunity of a lifetime.”

“We have been working in different ways to build the college-going culture in Bastrop ISD, and having an ECHS program is a big part of the continuation of building a strong post-secondary and college-going culture for our students, district, and community,” says Steve Murray, Bastrop ISD superintendent of schools.

In addition to providing course instructors and campus facilities, ACC will offer program support and professional development opportunities for school district faculty and staff. The college also provides access to ACC resources such as advising, libraries, learning labs, and free tutoring. The goal is for all ECHS students to graduate college-ready.

“ACC looks forward to working with Elgin and Bastrop school districts and to expanding our early college partnerships with other districts in the near future,” Dr. Rhodes says.

Texas has been a national leader in the early college high school movement since it began in 2002 as an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2011, ACC and Austin Independent School District launched Early College High Schools at Reagan and LBJ high schools. The data shows an improvement in academic performance, rising enrollment at the schools, and more than 400 students with college credit.

The passage of Texas House Bill 5 last year is expected to further fuel the growth of early college high schools as districts implement redesigned graduation requirements intended to prepare students equally well for postsecondary education and entering the workforce.

For more information about early college high school, please visit austincc.edu/echs.

For more information about Elgin ISD ECHS plans, please contact Dr. Jodi Duron, Elgin ISD Superintendent at (512) 281.3434 or Jodi.duron@elginisd.net. And, for information about Bastrop ISD ECHS plans, please contact Donald Williams, Bastrop ISD Executive Director of Community Services/Communications at (512) 321.2292 or dwilliams@bisdtx.org

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