Degree option for minority students
A high school diploma is a valuable document in today's world, but to be part of the world of hefty wage earners, a college diploma is a necessity.
Nearly 75 percent of all high school graduates go on to post secondary studies, but half will quit before completing their degree and one-third of never make it to their sophomore year.
For Hispanics, those statistics are even more alarming. Only 11 percent of that population complete a four-year degree by age 29.
Storm Lake High School is proposing the Early College High School Charter School to address the educational needs of those educationally disadvantaged students and enable them to acquire the skills needed to pursue further education.
High School principal Mike Hanna introduced this idea to the school board and abiding by the rules established by the State Board of Education, asked for an additional month to prepare an application for a planning grant, which the board granted. Deadline for school boards to receive applications for charter school planning is no later than Oct. 1 unless an alternative date, no later than Nov. 1, is agreed upon if it is the intention to establish a charter school at the beginning of the school district's next school year.
Established as a school within a school, the Storm Lake Area Early College High School would offer a five-year educational program in collaboration with Iowa Central College from which students would graduate with both an SLHS diploma and an ICCC Associate of Arts degree or enough college credits to enter a four-year college as a junior.
It was cited that half or more of the college-level credits needed for an Associate of Arts degree are already being offered to SLHS students through ICCC's "Early Bird" dual-credit program and the Storm Lake Area League of Schools vocational/career offerings. The proposed charter school would be an extension of such collaboration with ICCC.
With an increasing minority student population in the high school (currently 260 out of 630 students or 41 percent, breaking down to 27 percent Hispanic, 12 percent Asian and 2 percent other), the program is being proposed to close the educational achievement gap. The mission of the charter school program is to make high education more accessible, affordable and attractive to students who do not see a college degree in their future due to language and/or economic barriers.
Hanna cited that at present approximately 40 minority students per year (30 percent of the graduating class) have received their high school diploma with about 70 percent or 28 of those students going on to further education, primarily at the junior college or technical school level. About 80-85 percent of those students end up not completing their programs but return to Storm Lake to live and work.
Hanna added, "In today's high-skill, technology-driven econ-omy, innovative approaches to education and workforce preparation are more important than ever. The Storm Lake Area Early College High School programming would enable selected individuals to acquire the skills they can use in pursuing education and family-supporting employment throughout their lives."
Students eligible to take part are those that attain a score of 40 or above on the ASSET or 65 or above on the COMPASS measurements of writing, reading and mathematics used by ICCC for placement in college level programming.
It is anticipated that by the fall of 2005, approximately 40-50 students would qualify to begin the program with approximately 20-25 students per year qualifying thereafter.
"The ultimate goal is to enrich and enhance learning, accelerate progress, increase productivity, build a better-prepared and more diverse workforce and create a passion for lifelong learning and achievement that will enable many more students to discover and develop their full potential and lead to rewarding and fulfilling careers and lifestyles," Hanna said.
The charter school concept is increasingly becoming a popular alternative to the traditional school setting.
Principals, teachers or parents of students at an existing public school may submit an application to the local school board to become a charter.
The school board of a public school and the state Board of Education must both approve a charter application. Participation is a choice option for parents and students.
Iowa Charter Law allows for 10 pilot charter schools; this law will be revisited in July of 2010 to determine future viability.
Funding may be obtained in two fashions - up to $50,000 for one year through a planning grant or $175,000 each year for two years for Charter Status.
The school board will view more information in September.