Editor’s Note: Toledo Free Press, United Way of Greater Toledo and 13abc’s “Bridges” with Doni Miller are profiling 12 education initiative programs in Northwest Ohio. This is the seventh story in the series.
In 2005, a new high school opened through a partnership with the University of Toledo, Toledo Public Schools (TPS) and a grant through the Gates Foundation. It serves 100 students.
Aimed at students who generally would not be prepared for higher education and students who are not native English speakers, Toledo Early College High School (TECHS) provides students with the chance to begin earning college credit while still in high school.
In its second year, amidst the failing ratings of TPS, TECHS earned an “excellent” rating.
The school is located on UT’s Scott Park campus and students are able to use the UT bus system to take first-year college classes on the main campus. In some cases, the high school faculty, who all must have a master’s degree, is trained to teach college-level courses so students can stay within the high school.
In the long run, it benefits the state because it is only funding potentially six to seven years of education instead of eight, or the traditional four years of high school and four (or more) years of college, said Tom Brady, chair of the TECHS Governance Board.
“While everyone probably can’t do that, many could and it would save families and the state money in the end,” he said.
Brady said when the first graduating class went to college, most went to UT and did well.
“That’s the kind of thing, where you get a chance to make that happen, it’s something that is a good thing,” Brady said.
These students weren’t just going to college as an average freshman — the high school gives students the opportunity to graduate with one to two years of college coursework already completed.
Robin Wheatley, TECHS principal, said that a graduate from the first freshman class graduated with a bachelor’s degree from UT in December 2010 and there are other students who will be graduating with their bachelor’s this spring and fall. All of the students will be 20 years old at most.
Historically, Brady said schools like TECHS are not full of the “brightest students” from the district, but the faculty and resources from the high school and UT help them do their best in preparation for life beyond high school.
“The fact that early college high school and Toledo Technology Academy have been able to take kids that are pretty average and make them successful is one of the real bright spots,” Brady said.
For the majority of the students who choose to stay at UT, they receive several benefits.
“You don’t have to learn a new campus, you know the professors, you can figure out what’s a good course for you to take and what the expectations are,” Dr. Wheatley said.
But the school and its students are facing some challenges as well.
A major worry for the TECHS faculty and students is that the grant from the Gates Foundation ran out.
One of the proposed budget cuts for TPS last year, Brady said, was to eliminate TECHS.
Then there are the problems that stem from the limited funding: busing students to and from school, some of which are from suburban districts, not just TPS; paying the tuition for the UT classes; procuring textbooks for the UT classes; and recruiting and keeping students in a school that is not a traditional high school.
“These schools need to survive because even though they may appear as extra expenses, they are the bright lights,” Brady said.
The school tries to enroll 100 students each year in the freshman class, but when some kids come to a school like this, they decide along the way that it’s not for them, Brady said. The coursework is more difficult and it does not have all of the same extracurricular activities, such as a football team. It is possible that the class size can drop down to 60.
However, the school still has a competitive quiz bowl team, yearbook staff, Youth to Youth, drama club, chess club, a community dance troupe and an American Sign Language club, to name a few, Wheatley said.
Another worry for parents is affect the funding limitations could have. They could lose transportation to school or the school could close before their child has graduated.
Brady said the school is trying to work on its marketing through advertising and using resources from UT. They are on both the university’s website as well as the TPS website.
Despite the struggles, the school is continuing onward and doing what it does best — preparing students to be successful college students and beyond.
Being located on the UT campus, students are able to take part in the university’s programs, such as cultural events and career fairs.
Recruitment for TECHS is through April 4. For more information, visit the website toledoearlycollege.org.