By Gayla Cawley | April 28, 2022 | Lynn Item
LYNN — One hundred Lynn freshmen will have the unique opportunity to attend a newly-created Early College High School on the North Shore Community College (NSCC) campus this fall.
North Shore Community College and the Lynn Public Schools are building on their existing early-college partnership to create the new school, which will be available to Thurgood Marshall Middle School students in its first year.
Participating freshmen would otherwise be going to Lynn English High School, said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patrick Tutwiler, who explained the new program will be a “satellite” of English.
“Given that we believe deeply in early college, we saw this as an opportunity to deepen our relationship with North Shore and engage in this program that we believe (in) deeply, and offer our students this unique opportunity in the state of Massachusetts because there aren’t many programs like it in our state,” said Tutwiler.
The Early College High School will be housed in the modular building on the NSCC Lynn campus and will have its own principal, guidance counselor, nurse and food service. There will be a mix of high school and college professors and students will take all of their classes on the college campus.
While many high schools in Massachusetts have partnered with colleges to offer students an opportunity to take college courses for credit in high school, the new Lynn school will be among the first in the state.
The only other example of an early-college high school that administrators from Lynn Public Schools and North Shore Community College (NSCC) could point to was one in Brockton, where the New Heights Charter School and Massasoit Community College have partnered on a similar initiative.
Early-college high schools have already been successful in states like New York, Texas and California. About 100,000 students graduate from early-college high schools in Texas each year with both a high-school diploma and associate degree, according to Adam Cutler, dean of strategic partnerships at NSCC.
This is the ultimate goal at the new Early College High School in Lynn, Cutler said. Graduating with a diploma and associate degree would save students considerable time and cost, which would be particularly beneficial for the students targeted for the new tuition-free program.
“Our target populations are still first-generation, low-income students and English-language learners,” said Cutler.
These underserved students are also targeted for the existing early-college partnership between the Lynn Public Schools and NSCC, Tutwiler said.
“The research says clearly and undeniably that students who engage in early college are more likely to advance from grade to grade in high school,” said Tutwiler. “They’re more likely to graduate from high school, and they’re more likely to attend and persevere in college.”
He added: “We’re excited to expand it because we believe in that impact.”
Tutwiler said the school district also saw a second benefit to piloting an Early College High School this fall, which is to reduce the overcrowding at Lynn English. Marshall Middle School is a feeder to English, and shifting some of those students to the new satellite school would provide some relief from that enrollment issue, he said.
Eventually, Tutwiler said the district will be looking to do the same thing with Breed Middle School and Lynn Classical High School.
The number of students enrolled at the new school will gradually increase each year, by virtue of a new freshman class attending. In four years, there will be 400 students enrolled — 100 per grade — with the initial freshman class set to graduate, Cutler said.
Cutler said the early-college program at NSCC has grown from about 150 students in 2015, to more than 1,000 students in the past year. Approximately half of those students are from Lynn, he said. Of the 11 school districts NSCC works with, the college has a deeper relationship with Lynn. It has partnered with the city’s school district since the 2018-19 school year, he said.
Shannon Gardner, the early-college administrator for the Lynn Public Schools, said more than 450 students participate in the district’s early-college program. That number is expected to grow beyond 700 students next year, she said.
NSCC has dramatically increased its early-college enrollment over the past two years with the help of funding from the state and federal government. Much of that funding was due to the pandemic; since the program targets marginalized students that were most affected by the pandemic, the funding is meant to provide some relief, Cutler said. He added that it had the added benefit of creating a “more diversified college-going culture.”
“The early-college program here at North Shore Community College is growing by leaps and bounds so this particular project is part of that,” said NSCC President Dr. William Heineman. “We’ve sort of doubled the number of students we’re serving over the past two years for early college and quadrupled the number of partnerships we have for early college. So there’s a lot of excitement in the high schools themselves and also the community colleges.”
Heineman said this new Early College High School made sense, not only because Lynn is the biggest school district that NSCC services, but because the school district, itself, was interested in growing that partnership.
Tutwiler said the idea came from a grant opportunity from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). This past winter, DESE sent out a request for proposals for school districts and higher education institutions, seeking ideas on “wall-to-wall” or immersive-education experiences. One of those scenarios was for an early-college program to be housed on a college campus, he said.
“We saw this and we thought: Yes, only one school in Mass. does this,” said Tutwiler. “Meanwhile, this model exists in a lot of other states.”
Tutwiler said the district did not get the grant, which was only awarded to five partnerships, none of which were urban districts. However, he said not getting the grant, which would have awarded up to $200,000, was not a barrier to proceeding with this new school.
Since this new school experience is still in the planning phase, Tutwiler said he could not provide a specific number on how much it would cost. He said nine new positions will be created for the first year, and current Lynn teachers will have the opportunity to pursue those college-campus positions.
Gardner said the incoming freshman class will be taking mostly high-school courses this fall, but there will be an opportunity to take one of two early-college electives. They will be taking more college courses in the higher grades, she said.
“I see this as extremely important, serving multiple purposes, so we’re prioritizing this in our budget planning for next year,” said Tutwiler. “As hard as the past two years have been, many entities have also sort of defined it as fertile ground for innovation, and I think that that same kind of feeling exists in the education circles. So we are excited to be thinking outside of the box in evidence-based ways that we can support students’ learning and growth.”