Four college-based high schools that are expected to get school board approval tonight introduce a concept that's new to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools: Grade 13.
Students at middle college schools on three Central Piedmont Community College campuses and an early college high at UNC Charlotte will be able to stick around for a fifth year of high school in order to build up two years worth of tuition-free college credits. Because that's part of the structure of those schools, the CMS on-time graduation rate won't take a hit if those students graduate a year later than their peers.
All high school students can take community-college courses for free, and Cato Middle College High introduced the concept of campus-based high schools to CMS. That school always promised that successful, highly motivated juniors and seniors could earn an associate's degree along with their high school diploma, but the reality was very few found time to accumulate that many college credits.
When the 2014-15 application season opens Jan. 11, rising 11th and 12th graders with at least a 2.5 GPA will be able to apply for middle college high schools at CPCC's Cato, Levine and Harper campuses. Rising ninth-graders can sign up to pioneer the district's first early college high school at UNCC's Energy Production and Infrastructure Center.
|UNCC EPIC building|
Students at all four schools with grade 13 will have the option to graduate at the end of 12th grade, but Craven-Howell expects most to be motivated to stay for more free college classes.
Some are bound to see the extra year as a CMS bid to game the numbers and boost graduation rates. I'm as skeptical as the next person, but I don't think that will be the case. Cato has consistently logged four-year graduation rates at or near 100 percent, hardly surprising given that it caters to highly motivated students who are on track to graduate when they're accepted. These small college-based options aren't likely to become a place where CMS can hide low-performing students while they take an extra year to master basic requirements.