Tuesday, March 6, 2018 3:00 pm
by Josh Orr
In the spring of 2015, Elgin High School started offering Early College High School classes where students could take Austin Community College courses along with their EHS courses.
As with any other young program, the ECHS program has faced many challenges. However, they have also allowed many students, who are college-bound advanced learners, to earn parts of a free college education.
Early College High School students Kayla Hanover and Kenia Espinoza were interviewed for their insight on issues and advantages within the program. They both agreed, almost instantly after the question was posed, that free college was one of the biggest benefits of the program. Both agreed they love the fact that they are able to get a jump start on their higher education and get a feel for a collegiate classroom without the high price.
Hanover and Espinoza said they feel as though they are actually challenged to engage and they are graded fairly at ACC. While at the high school, they want you to learn, but those classes are less challenging than ACC and the classes they offer can sometimes feel as though they are solely in existence for the purpose of babysitting the children in them.
Even though the high school has great intentions and it would be virtually impossible to take college courses without the knowledge it provides, for some more advanced students, the content can feel menial.
Hanover and Espinoza also both stated that they feel as though the typical 8-period day that is state mandated in high school does nothing to prepare students for any type of actual college or work environment. Compared to college, high school classes are much shorter, they allow for much more free-time or time where there is no instruction happening, there are much more in a day, and they require students to stay on campus for the entire day.
This is nothing like college or work.
Resources offered by ACC are a bonus, both students agreed. Free tutors and other library resources help out with grades and the food that they give from time to time is pretty sweet too.
Even with all the benefits, there are still some kinks to be worked out with the program.
Hanover and Espinoza also brought up multiple issues with the program, such as credits that do not transfer to major universities, lack of allowance to participate in extracurricular activities, and lack of personalization.
When asked about these issues, Robert Block, assistant principal in charge of the Early College High School, replied that most of these issues are brought on by the state and their strict education regulations. Because of how young the program is, there are a lot of new issues that the state has to begin to acknowledge just as much as we do, he said.
As for credits that do not transfer to most major universities, Block said that most of that issue is with how it was advertised. As freshman and sophomores, students were all told that our credits would easily transfer to any major university within the state of Texas.
However, over the past year, students have discovered that that is not the case when they tried to apply to colleges.
Block confirmed that the conception has been from the beginning that credits would only apply to public colleges within the state of Texas, but higher public colleges within the state of Texas were not consulted in the creation of an ECHS program and therefore basically had schools speak on their behalf by anyone saying that all or most credits earned in the program would transfer to them.
The reason most ECHS students are not able to participate in extracurricular activities is because ECHS and ACC classes are very time consuming. You cannot miss class and you cannot neglect to study (otherwise your grades will reflect it).
EHS actually allows for the ECHS program students to participate in extracurricular activities if the student believes that they can handle it.
At most high schools, ECHS program students are not allowed to participate in extracurricular activities at all, so ECHS students are actually allowed a lot more flexibility as far as extracurricular activities.
In regards to disclaimers, one common theme that everyone agreed with was that ECHS is not for everyone. ECHS is available to everyone, but it is not for every mindset or work ethic. ECHS is geared for students who are advanced studiers and learners.
Both Block and the students want everyone to know that it is available and can help immensely with education in high school and college. Everyone has the potential to become an advanced student, it only takes initiative.
Overall, EHS wants to encourage every student to evaluate their potential in the ECHS program. They welcome all students from incoming freshman to seniors who would like to pick up a few free college credits before graduation.