Under the authority of Texas Education Code (TEC) §29.908(b) and Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §102.1091, the TEA developed a designation process for Early College High Schools. The designation process ensures that districts and colleges operating ECHS campuses maintain the integrity of the model, which was researched and designed to target and serve students who might not otherwise attend college.
Benchmark 1: Target Population
The Early College High School shall serve, or include plans to scale up to serve, students in grades 9 through 12, and shall target and enroll students who are at risk of dropping out of school as defined by statute (Texas Education Code (TEC) §29.908) and the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) and who might not otherwise go to college.
• Written recruitment plan, including a timeline of recruitment and enrollment events, and recruitment materials for distribution at feeder middle schools and other appropriate locations in the community
Benchmark 2: Partnership Agreement
The Early College High School shall have a current, signed memorandum of understanding (MOU), interlocal agreement (ILA) for each school year that:
• Defines the partnership between the school district(s) and the institution(s) of higher education (IHE) and addresses topics including, but not limited to, the ECHS location; transferability and applicability of college credit between a 2-year and 4- year institution; the allocation of costs for tuition, fees, and textbooks; and student transportation;
• States that the school district or charter in which the student is enrolled shall pay for college tuition (for all dual credit courses, including retakes), fees (including TSI administration fees), and required textbooks to the extent those charges are not waived by the partner IHE;
• Defines an active partnership between the school district(s) and the IHE(s), which shall include joint decision-making procedures that allow for the planning and implementation of a coherent program across institutions; and
• Includes a data-sharing agreement that promotes collaborative interventions with processes for collecting, sharing, and reviewing program and student data to assess the progress of students served by the ECHS.
Benchmark 3: P-16 Leadership Initiatives
The school district and institution(s) of higher education (IHE) partners shall develop and maintain a leadership team that meets regularly (e.g., quarterly or monthly) to address issues of design, implementation, ongoing implementation, and sustainability. Membership should include the Early College High School leader and individuals with decision-making authority from the district(s) and IHE(s).
• ECHS/IHE leadership meeting agendas
• Description of each member and role in committee
• Document(s) outlining the strategic priorities for the current academic year and/or long-term priorities of the ECHS partnership
Benchmark 4: Curriculum and Support
The Early College High School shall provide a rigorous course of study that enables a participating student to receive a high school diploma and complete the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s (THECB) core curriculum (as defined by Title 19 of the Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §4.28), obtain certifications, or earn an associate degree, or earn at least 60 credit hours toward a baccalaureate degree during grades 9-12. The ECHS shall provide students with academic, social, and emotional support in their course of study.
• Professional learning community agendas (contain confidential student data, available upon request)
Content PLC meets each Tuesday, Grade-Level PLC meets each Wednesday
Benchmark 5: Academic Rigor and Readiness
The Early College High School shall administer a Texas Success Initiative (TSI) college placement exam (as defined by TAC §4.53) to all accepted ECHS students to assess college readiness, design individual instructional support plans, and enable students to begin college courses based on their performance on the exam.
• Calendar of TSI scheduled test administration dates, sign-up process, and intervention expectations
• Aggregate reports of TSI exam performance
• Tutoring and bridge program schedules
Benchmark 6: School Design
The Early College High School must provide a full-day program (i.e., full day as defined in PEIMS) at an autonomous high school (i.e., a high school with ECHS leader assigned to ECHS responsibilities who has scheduling, hiring, and budget authority), an IHE liaison with decision-making authority, and a highly qualified staff with support and training.
• Mentor/induction program plans
• Annual training or professional development plan with ECHS and IHE faculty
• ECHS leader/liaison meeting agendas and informational handouts