TPS' Early College may be expanded under proposals
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Sunday, April 03, 2011
4/03/11 at 8:11 AM
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Sandra Escalante can't even drive yet, but she is enrolled in her first college credit course.
Early College, a partnership of Tulsa Public Schools and Tulsa Community College, isn't a haven for whiz kids. It's for people like Escalante, just your ordinary 15-year-old with a dream for her future.
"I was going to go to Booker T. Washington, but I got a call one week before school started. What drew me in is, well, I want to be a lawyer. That we could leave here with two years of college credits would get me that much closer," said Escalante, a high school freshman.
The promise of the Early College program - the opportunity for students to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an associate's degree - is one that TPS leaders hope to expand soon.
Their plan to take the small, 2-year-old program currently housed at TCC's Northeast Campus and use it as the foundation for transforming Rogers High School is included in two of the three consolidation proposals announced last week.
Under the two proposals, all current students at Rogers would be sent to other high schools. Beginning with the 2011-12 academic year, the school would be reinvented as an early college that would eventually serve 1,700 students in grades 7-12 by 2014.
If the school board approves, the "new" Rogers would open in the fall for grades 7-9.
The 40-50 ninth-graders currently enrolled in the TPS Early College program would move to Rogers, as would students who are willing to commit to the program from Cleveland and Wilson middle schools.
Nearby Kendall-Whittier and Sequoyah elementary schools would serve students through the sixth grade and become Rogers' only feeder schools. Any remaining seats would be awarded by lottery.
Current Early College students say they understand the program could have broader appeal to students and parents, but most are anxious about the program's possible expansion and relocation.
"I like the small-school feel. Like, I'm drowned out if I'm in a large environment with a lot of people," said Alison Glasco, 15, who came to Early College from Thoreau Demonstration Academy.
"It's not the same as being on a college campus all day, and it takes away the small aspect that attracted me here in the first place. Plus, some people that are here have bad grades because they went to a slack-off school before," she said. "Just from the name, you should understand you need to be prepared."
Coston Richardson said he was happy to leave Edison Preparatory School.
"It was crazy and crowded. It was a fight just to get through the halls, and I had things ruined or stolen," said Richardson, 15. "Here, I get my own personal computer, and any time I ask for assistance, I get it."
Early College students have their own group of classrooms in an engineering building. There, they move through every school day in a set group and on a block schedule, which allows for longer class periods.
They also begin and end each day with an advisory period with the same teacher.
"I think the most beneficial part of the program is the advisory culture," said Krista Baxter-Waldron, who teaches English. "The small environment makes it much easier to keep in touch with the families of our advisory students."
Students who are more advanced than their peers are working ahead in a TPS virtual high school program.
For example, Escalante is enrolled in biology online, and Glasco is enrolled in geometry, while most of their peers are in Algebra I and physical science.
Also, 17 students have already qualified through proficiency testing to begin college coursework. They are enrolled in an introductory, three-credit course that is taught by a TCC instructor.
Despite many students' reluctance for Early College to expand, students do have ideas of some good that could come of the change.
Glasco said the program could use some stability because it has been in almost constant flux since it was founded in 2009.
"You have to be flexible to come here," she said, laughing.
Escalante has other ideas for the school's future.
"Maybe if we expand, it would be possible to have more electives - especially driver's ed, because it's really inconvenient to have to pay and for it to only be offered on weekends or in the summer," she said.
About Project Schoolhouse
Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard launched Project Schoolhouse in the fall, saying the district might need to close some of its 90 schools to reduce inefficiencies because of the likelihood of additional state funding cuts and the fast-approaching expiration date for federal stimulus funds.
An outside firm has projected that the school district's total enrollment will increase by just seven-tenths of 1 percent by 2015. The last time TPS had 41,000 students, as it does currently, was 1952, when there were just 56 schools.
A school board-appointed advisory council spent months studying reports on current enrollments, building capacities and conditions, academic performance and safety track records.
The study revealed that academic inequities have built up across the city's schools, including split classes, or those with mixed groups of students in different grade levels, and a lack of full-time teaching positions for art, music and physical education at the smallest elementary schools and limited elective offerings and class scheduling options at the smallest middle and high schools.
Last week, the district announced three proposals developed by a "think tank" of TPS administrators and teachers and community leaders.
Proposal A includes 16 facility closures. Central, McLain and Webster high schools would begin serving grades 7-12, five feeder schools would become fifth- and sixth-grade centers, and the remaining feeder schools would be pre-k-4. Mayo and Thoreau demonstration academies would relocate so they could expand.
Proposal B includes 14 facility closures. Central and McLain high schools would add grades 6-8 to their current 9-12. Central's feeder schools and many of McLain's would serve pre-k-6. McLain's feeder pattern would get six schools formerly assigned to Rogers. The former Monroe Middle School facility would be reopened to serve grades 1-8, as would Hamilton, currently a middle school.
Proposal C calls for 17 facility closures, including Central High School. The remaining eight high schools and all magnet schools would be unchanged. All other schools would serve students in grades 1-8, and prekindergarten and kindergarten would be located in early childhood education centers.
TPS is sponsoring a series of public forums about the three proposals. They are set for 6 p.m. April 12 at Gilcrease Middle School, April 14 at Foster Middle School, April 19 at Thoreau Demonstration Academy, and April 25 at Clinton Middle School.
Original Print Headline: TPS embraces program
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470
Early College Principal Marsha Edmonds jokes with student Tatiana Henry after speaking to students about the proposed changes involving Rogers High School as part of Project Schoolhouse. ADAM WISNESKI / Tulsa World
Early College student Fabianca Eloi works on a computer as part of Tulsa Public Schools' Early College program. ADAM WISNESKI / Tulsa World
Early College math teacher Julia Meier (right) helps student Catina Cook with her algebra. Under two of three TPS consolidation proposals, Rogers High School would be reinvented as an early college program. ADAM WISNESKI / Tulsa World