Riddle: How can you attract a roomful of academic parents from all fields together for two hours starting at 7 pm on a weeknight (without food)?
Answer: Hold a forum to discuss the creation of a new, rigorous, small, public (i.e. free!) college prep charter high school founded though a collaboration between our respected research university, the county public school system, and the town which houses the university.
There was great response, anyway, at a meeting as such that I attended last week unveiling a proposal for a new public charter “early college” academy in our neck of the woods. The new school would offer a rigorous college prep curriculum for grades 7-12, potential to achieve up to 60 college credits through AP and a rich diversity of university courses, individualized curriculum, access to cutting edge education concepts and technologies supporting blended learning, access to university facilities, etc, etc. It was like candy for parents – the enthusiasm of the attendees was testimony to the huge demand for this concept.
We’d certainly fill out the paperwork to try to get our daughters into a program like this – seems like we have nothing to lose in looking into it. But I have questions. For one thing, our county serves 129,000 kids in public school grades K-12. In its first phase, this school offers 50 slots per grade, eligible to any county student. So our chances in the random lottery process are extremely low (in fact just the kids represented by the parents at the meeting would almost fill the school). “Getting a slot in the charter lottery like winning the lottery!” one parent exclaimed as she calculated that 60 AP credits could add up to $40,000. The panel discussion got me thinking about what, if anything we should/could/want to expect or ask for as K-12 outreach/education services from universities. In this situation, given that the university shows inclination to participate in K-12 education in some form, is clumping these resources into a charter program with such limited availability a good way to go? (Granted, they anticipate expanding this program if it is successful, so maybe they could eventually meet demand. I do hope it’s successful).
Readers, I’m showing my ignorance here, and this is an enormous can of worms. I would love to know more about programs whereby universities and pre-college age students intersect and benefit each other. I hear the terms “Middle College” and “Early College” popping up more and more commonly (and now right in my backyard, so to speak, with this new charter proposal). Many of these kinds of programs appear designed to encourage first generation college students, or those “at risk” of failing in a traditional high school curriculum. As we push more students to make it to college, and to take more and more AP classes in high school, maybe it makes sense to have universities more involved in K-12 education. Will these kinds of programs become a more standard option for high school students? How do the advantages compare with other outreach programs provided through universities?