Educational Feature – The Early Middle College at NC A&T SU

by Terry Watson | November 4th, 2010
Eric Hines, Principal

Eric Hines, Principal

The Early Middle College High School at North Carolina A&T State University was founded in 2003, as a collaborative effort of Guilford County Schools and NC A&T State University. It is the first all male high school in the state of North Carolina. Its mission is to graduate male students in the Guilford County Schools who were struggling to find success in the comprehensive high schools they attended and who were in danger of dropping out of school. It was the hope that with the many resources offered by the university, and especially those of the School of Education, that these at-risk students would, for the first time, experience a high level of academic success and would even be able to take some university courses.

In January 2006, the Middle College applied for, and was awarded, a grant by the North Carolina New Schools Project to become a Learn and Earn School. Learn and Earn is a project funded through the Governor’s office that is creating Early College High Schools (ECHS) across the state. These schools are located on the campuses of institutions of higher learning (universities, colleges, and community colleges) and share the following major characteristics:
• They are small (maximum of 400 students, and many are currently half that size). Small classroom sizes with a large class being 15 students.
• They offer students in grades 9-12 a curriculum that guarantees a high school diploma and up to two years of college credit at no cost to parents of students who successfully complete the program.
• They target middle school students (a) who are willing to accelerate their high school studies and begin taking college courses while they are still in high school, (b) who may prefer a small-school environment to that of a large comprehensive high school, (c) who may in fact be at risk of not thriving in a large high school, (d) who are under-represented in normal college student populations (e.g., first generation college-goers; low socio-economic status).

The following information provided by Eric Hines:
As a result of our vastly changing society and collaborative efforts with Guilford County Schools, North Carolina A&T, and NC New Schools Project, we felt the need to revisit our school’s vision and mission. No longer could we be content with just graduating young men from high school but rather we felt it was imperative that we prepared them for college and the 21st century. Thus, “Our mission is to provide a single-gender education that will establish a school culture raising educational achievement in an innovative, nurturing environment where young men are offered exceptionally challenging education opportunities that support academic development at the highest standard”. This was accomplished through a paradigm shift in our school. We began to utilize school wide strategies and practices that studies showed produced success in male students. The first thing I realized was in order for our school culture to produce the success we envisioned for our young men, we had to have the right staff members in place. It is vital that our staff members love “other people’s children” and do whatever is necessary to help them succeed. Our success as a school has everything to do with staff members buying into the mission and vision of the school.

Through team meetings and professional learning community meetings, data is analyzed and decisions are made collaboratively to ensure success for our students and school as a whole. Secondly, we focused on creating and building strong relationships. The old adage that “children don’t care what you know, until they know that you care” was very evident in our school. Realizing that our students and parents are our customers caused us to look at how we do business in the area of customer service. As a principal, it was my goal to build teacher leaders in our school. In order to be an effective leader in any organization, one must be willing to serve.

In modeling being a servant, we have created an environment where children feel confident, safe, and enjoy coming to school every day. When the culture of our school improved, so did the attitudes of the students, which produced successes academically. Thirdly, the instructional practices implemented in our school produced success in our male students. We have made a concerted effort to move away from “sit and get”. Through renovating our classroom instruction we moved to best practices that fostered success in male students. Through utilizing powerful teaching and learning strategies, movement, and technology, we have seen monumental improvement in the learning of our students.

We have seen our school turn around in two short years, thus enjoying great successes with students who in any other environment may have become a statistic. We have grown from a low performing high school to one who has achieved high growth and AYP (Annual Yearly Progress). We have a graduation rate of 96.4 percent, of which 99 percent were African American males. In 2009-2010 school year, we graduated 22 seniors. Out of the 22 young men, 21 were accepted into college or a university. One young man opted to enlist in the United States Air Force.

Our SAT scores have increased by an average of 294 points which was the second highest growth in the district in 2009. The future is very promising for our young men who attend the Early Middle College at North Carolina A&T. No longer do they feel that the most they can hope for is a high school diploma. Our young men know that they have options after high school. We do not spend a lot of time looking into the rear view mirror. Our young men enjoy the panoramic view of the windshield because it gives them a greater perspective of where they can go. Regardless of the obstacles and stereotypes unfairly thrust upon our young men, they know that “We get even by succeeding”.

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