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Early College High School students plan path to higher education through success in academics

July 28, 2011

Jennifer Russo
(315) 443-4751

This summer 100 ninth and 10th graders at the Nottingham Early College High School are taking part in rigorous writing, math and science institutes led by faculty from Syracuse University’s School of Education and the Syracuse City School District. All three academic programs are the products of year-long collaborative planning between the Syracuse University and Nottingham High School communities and engage students of all abilities in critical thinking, communication and scientific inquiry while easing the transition from middle to high school and from ninth to 10th grade.

The Nottingham Early College High School is a partnership between Syracuse University’s School of Education and Nottingham High School, created in December 2008. Early College High School was formed when the University, in conjunction with the Syracuse City School District, received a grant from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation—a leading sponsor of the nationwide Early College High School Initiative.
Syracuse University is now one of more than 200 institutions around the country currently operating an Early College High School. The Early College model blends high school and college in a rigorous, yet supportive, program accelerating the time it takes to complete both a high school diploma and the first two years of college. The Early College model seeks to improve high school and college graduation rates and better prepare students for college by reinforcing positive core academic and personal behaviors, offering college preparatory courses, linking rigorous instruction with intensive support, meeting the learning needs of all students and removing financial and other barriers.

During the 2010-11 school year the Early College High School provided in-school support to 90 students and their families, including academic tutoring, a voluntary book club and college awareness programs. The program is administered under the supervision of Jeffery Mangram, assistant professor of teaching and leadership in the School of Education. As Nottingham High School adopts a learning academy model for the 2011-12 school year, Syracuse University will partner with one of the three academies to continue and expand the supports of the Early College program to nearly 400 students. The summer institutes keep academics relevant when school is not in session, and build a foundation in the critical skill areas for students.

Consistent with research on best practices in secondary writing instruction, teachers of the second annual writing institute connect academic writing to students’ personal interests and experiences. By the end of the three-week program, students complete three products: 1) a writer’s notebook of daily informal writing in various genres, 2) a personal essay of 500-750 words that has been revised and polished extensively, and 3) a group-authored digital story on some aspect of research about writing. Teachers from Nottingham High School and its feeder middle schools collaborated with SU professor Kelly Chandler-Olcott and retired SCSD teacher Mary Taylor, the Early College liaison, to design the curriculum and deliver instruction.

A one-week science institute is held on the Syracuse University campus. According to Sharon Dotger, assistant professor of science teaching in the School of Education and College of Arts and Sciences, the students are, “divided into small groups and each will see one of four demonstrations designed to both elicit some excitement for the coming week, but also to relate to an anchoring activity; the description and explanation of its various phenomena will be the focus of the institute. Students will utilize science notebooks as a ‘thinking tool’ for recording observations, making notes, writing down hypotheses and making predictions.” Dotger explains that the use of science notebooks is a constructive tool in the scientific process that also promotes literacy development.
The third summer institute operated by the Early College program is a math institute, focusing on solidifying algebra skills and regents preparation. This will be a one-week course at Nottingham High School.

With its anticipated growth in the student body for the 2011-12 school year, goal setting for the Early College High School is ambitious. This past year saw an increase in the number of staff, trained volunteers and student participants; and that number will continue to grow. Saturday Study Festivals, continuing in 2011-12, provide concurrent sessions for students and their families on college access, adolescent youth development, high school persistence and peer mentorship. The program also schedules and chaperones college tours at area universities. Staff make visits to the homes of students and families to discuss academics, a student book club gives participants opportunities to teach and lead group discussions, and student planners and assessment sheets are reviewed on a weekly basis.

The capstone of the summer writing institute will be a public presentation on Friday, July 29, in the Large Group Instruction Room at Nottingham High School. Beginning at 10:30 am, the program will include a welcome from Mayor Stephanie Miner, readings of student creative writing and a film festival of students’ work. For more information, contact Professor Jeffery Mangram at 315-443-3293.

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