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What are ECHSs?

ECHSs are partnerships between school districts and colleges, innovatively designed to blend secondary and the first two years of post-secondary education using a dual credit framework. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) defines dual credit as “a process through which a student may earn high school credit for successfully completing a college course that provides advanced academic instruction beyond, or in greater depth than, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for a corresponding high school course.” Basically, dual credit programs provide the infrastructure whereby students can earn both college credit and high school credit for one course.

The ECHS model takes standard dual credit even further by going beyond the state minimum requirement to offer enough dual credit courses so that students can complete up to an associate degree, or the first two years toward a bachelor’s degree, while in high school. By enabling students to concurrently earn both their high school diploma and associate degree during their four years of high school, the ECHS model saves students precious time and money in their pursuit of higher education, and dramatically increases their rates of college readiness and completion, as the model’s performance outcomes illustrate.

The ECHS concept is an outgrowth of two former, evidence-based education reform movements of the 1970’s, the small school and the middle college reforms. Centered on five core principles, the model focuses on promoting a college-going culture in high school, and, unlike standard dual credit, specifically targets at-risk students – students who traditionally do not meet college readiness standards due to lack of access to academic preparation, students for whom the cost of college is prohibitive, students of color, and English language learners. Many contend that because the ECHS model focuses on at-risk students, its’ performance outcomes are much more statistically significant and impactful.

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