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In 2012, the Michigan Department of Education approved our application to open a new high school entity within Meridian Public Schools. Through this new entity, named Meridian Early College High School, we are now able to offer all students greater access to college courses and credit while still in high school.

All high school students in Meridian Public Schools are early college students.

Why early college:

We believe that post-secondary education and training are imperative to student success in today's economy. Yet, data from the state of Michigan told us that only a little more than third of our graduates ever complete their first year of college between 2007 and 2012.

Over three-quarter of Meridian students now complete their first year of college before graduating high school.

How early college benefits students:

The state of Michigan traditionally expects high schools to graduate students within four years. A primary characteristic of early college high schools is that the state grants them an additional year of per pupil funding they can use to help students earn post-secondary credit in addition to a high school diploma. Through Meridian Early College High School, we are able to offer our students funding and support to earn up to an associates degree in addition to a high school diploma in five years.

Why the state let us start an early college:

In a memo to local superintendents dated March 29, 2012, State Superintendent Mike Flanagan expressed the state's interest in expanding "opportunities for students to earn postsecondary credit while still in high school." In that memo, he cites the following reasons:

  • Offering college level coursework "changes the expectations and commitments of both students and staff and leads to a modification in the culture of a high school."
  • College course offerings in evenings, on weekends, and online could provide students with "flexible schedule options."
  • Taking college courses while still in high school is the ultimate "reality check for students on their level of college preparation and helps them to develop their own sense of academic efficacy."
  • Offering postsecondary options provides opportunities to teach "'college knowledge'" strategies ... such as time management."

Since the Department of Education's "'end goal' is "to have all Michigan students graduate from high school with post-secondary credit," the definition of an early college was expanded to allow more schools to apply.

What is now expected of us:

To be considered an on-time five-year graduate by the state of Michigan, early college students must earn a high school diploma and an associate degree, 60 transferable credits, or a Michigan Early/Middle College Association (MEMCA) Certificate. Our commitment to the state is to offer all students the opportunity to earn up to an associates degree over five years.

For students who are unable to earn an associates degree or who earn fewer than sixty credits, a MEMCA Technical Certificate will be awarded along with the diploma once a student has completed:

  1. The state of Michigan High School Merit Curriculum
  2. A minimum of 15 college credit hours in a combination of 100-level general education and technical training courses with a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher.
  3. 100 hours of verified community service, a minimum of 40 hours of verified career exploration, internship, job shadowing, or clinical experience, or 70 hours of combined community service and verified career exploration, etc..

We changed our graduation requirements and academic program to provide all students an opportunity to earn this MEMCA Certificate back in 2012. The class of 2016 was the first to go through with these new requirements with extraordinary success.

To award a MEMCA Certificate means that our College Readiness Curriculum has been approved by the Michigan Early/Middle College Association Leadership Council. Below is a list of components used to evaluate that curriculum:

  1. Academic Preparation and Alignment: Providing preparation that is individualized in terms of pacing and developmental in nature; aligning curriculum that meets the unique academic outcomes of the pot-secondary partner institutions and providing students with lessons, pedagogy and assessments that model postsecondary instructional practice.
  2. Non-Core Content Skill Development: This includes all of the process-type skills that support academic success, such as study skills, collaboration, note taking, test-taking, etc. This step is important for student success in postsecondary coursework.
  3. Social Maturity Development: This component includes maturity, accepting responsibility for the consequences of actions, self-advocacy, self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills.

Through our implementation of our New Tech initiative, which addressed all of the components listed above, our high school academic program was certified as a pathway toward college readiness by the MEMCA Leadership Council.