Local high school offering college creditsWritten by Zach Davis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When Toledo Public Schools released its state report card Aug. 24, three high schools were given an “excellent” designation. Among those is one which serves a much different purpose than any other TPS institution.
Toledo Early College High School prepares students for their collegiate careers at the University of Toledo. After four years at Toledo Early College, students can graduate with up to 60 credit hours toward their classes at UT, the equivalent of starting college in their junior year.
“We have had an excellent rating for three straight years, which is as long as we could have it,” Toledo Early College Principal Robin Wheatley said. “Two of those years we have had the highest performance index in the county. We think our students have done a lot in just a few short years. We are really proud of our accomplishments.”
Toledo Early College’s students also benefit from lower costs than the typical UT student. All college-level courses and required textbooks are provided to the students at no cost.
Toledo Early College’s focus is to offer a program that better transitions the high school student into college. With an accelerated curriculum including both high school and select college courses, Toledo Early College believes its students can progress at a much faster rate. Students can take two years of English and social studies, as well as up to three years of math and science at the high school level. All remaining courses are taught at the University of Toledo, including electives and foreign language.
That experience helps prospective UT students familiarize themselves with how a college classroom operates and helps teach the skills they will need before they have to pay thousands per semester.
“While some of their counterparts may find college stressful as a 20-year-old, our kids are graduating at 20,” Wheatley said. “They have mastered how to manage time and get through the curriculum. They are now in position to enjoy college.”
Wheatley also said a benefit of attending Toledo Early College is the exposure it gives high school students to college life. That way, students don’t need to attend college for two years, racking up debt, before deciding they want to drop out.
“We can get them those first two years of college, which is when most students will drop out, if they are going to,” Wheatley said.
For those who do choose to leave the program, they can transfer back to their original schools and enter the grade that they would have been in if they had never left. In fact, Wheatley said some students who left were further ahead when they went back to their schools, due to a more difficult grading scale.
Toledo Early College has 215 students enrolled and has room for up to 400, although many would need to be taking solely college classes to reach that limit. High school classes are taught at the University of Toledo’s Scott Park Campus.
The school looks at four different areas when reviewing applications for admission, including first-generation college, minority status, free and reduced lunch status and English as a second language. Wheatley said, however, that prospective students do not necessarily need to fit into any of the four categories to be accepted into the school.
Toledo Early College has had students as young as 12 take their first college classes. Senior Robert Chele, a 17-year old senior, attended his first college class at 14 and is on pace to graduate with 58-of-60 possible college credits.
Chele, who is in the running to be the class valedictorian, said he is thankful to have such a head start on his collegiate career.
“I’m still in awe,” said Chele, who plans to major in accounting or civil engineering. “I can’t fully comprehend that I will be that far ahead when I enter college. I can’t quite grasp that yet. It’s just surreal for me. I guess I won’t grasp that until I graduate from UT.”
Some students, however, have to deal with the difficulties of attending a school without their friends. Among them is 16-year-old junior Christian White, who joined the program despite many of her friends’ disapproval.
“When I heard about it, everyone was talking about going to another high school but I was thinking more towards the future,” said White, who plans to major in biology or pre-med. “I wanted to be able to finish my college earlier. Everyone was against it and thought I should go to [high school] with everyone else but I told them ‘Give me two years and you are going to wish you were me.’
“I’m getting experiences I would have never gotten at a public
The different experience, however, is one reason many students don’t last at Toledo Early College. Factors such as proximity to friends or wanting to participate in the traditional high school experience often trigger many students to leave.
“Kids drop off for different reasons,” Wheatley said. “For some students, they just want to be in the traditional environment. As I explain to parents, if your child wants to leave or isn’t doing as well as expected it doesn’t mean it’s an intelligence thing, it just may not be a good fit for your child.”
Toledo Early College does make attempts to give students as much as that traditional high school experience as possible. The school holds its own dances and allows the students to return to their old schools, as long as they are TPS, to play sports and participate in dances and other extracurricular school activities.
Lauren Merrell, a 20-year-old junior at UT, was the valedictorian of Toledo Early College’s first graduating class in 2009. Merrell, like so many other college students, decided after two years to switch her major. Due to Toledo Early College, she was able to make the change without fear of starting again because of the head start she began with.
“I really love it, I’m so glad that I switched,” said Merrell, who dropped pharmacy to major in social work. “I was on the fence for a long time and I was afraid to make the change. I’m really happy that I did.
“I’ve seen so many people that are in a major that they don’t really want to be in and they are just suffering through it because of the money.”
For more information about Toledo Early College High School, visit www.ToledoEarlyCollege.org.