College high schools to benefit from state Senate bill

Senator Loni Hancock

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A bill written by state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Oakland, that will give aid to California’s early college and middle college high schools was signed into law Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Early college and middle college high schools are public high schools that partner with local community colleges so high school students can earn up to two years of college credit while they earn their high school diplomas in five years or less.

The credits that students earn while attending early college or middle college high schools can be applied to completing an associate’s degree, qualifying for transfer to a four-year university or earning certification in a career that provides a family-sustaining wage, according to Hancock in a letter to Brown.

“Early College and Middle College programs provide a unique opportunity for students from populations that are under-represented in higher education and are from lower socio-economic backgrounds,” Hancock said in the letter to Brown.

According to John Kelly, principal of University Preparatory High School in Visalia, about 40 college high schools exist in the state of California.

The bill will amend the California Education Code so early college and middle college high schools can be exempt from a minimum 240-minute school day, as is the case for evening high schools and continuation high schools. The additional section of the code adds that a minimum 240-minute school day is required for an early college or middle college high school student who is not enrolled part time at a UC, CSU or community college.

For the students who are enrolled part-time in college-level courses, the minimum school day is 180 minutes.

“The goal of SB 1316 is to create an environment that is more conducive to approaching the dual enrollment in a way that is the most productive for students and which will provide them with the best opportunity to be successful in the college environment,” reads the state Assembly floor analysis.

According to Rebecca Baumann, Hancock’s education consultant, the bill allows early college and middle college high schools to receive the same funding as other high schools without having to meet the 240-minute-per-day minimum for students who are enrolled in college courses. Baumann said this is because the students who are enrolled in college courses are in intensive programs, and the school provides additional services to these students such as counseling and tutoring even though they do not have 240 instructional minutes per day.

Hancock wrote the bill at the request of several early college and middle college high schools, as well as the Tulare County Office of Education, which includes University Preparatory High School. Kelly said the bill will make scheduling much easier for his school and many other early college and middle college high schools.

Kelly said having a 240 to 288 minute school day on top of college courses could be very tiring for students, and that this bill would allow for a more manageable and more college-like day for students.

“The real value of early college is that it teaches kids to navigate a very complicated system,” Kelly said. “There are certain skill sets and things waiting for them in college that can be overwhelming.”