Collaboration with a postsecondary institution is critical to supporting high school students in the transition to college. A postsecondary partner can provide valuable knowledge, resources, and services to support students’ academic needs and to provide exposure to a college-going culture.
College partners are central to the Woodrow Wilson Early College Network. A solid collaborative relationship is evidenced by regular meetings and working groups, ongoing communication with college faculty and student support staff, and access to college facilities and resources. Through productive collaboration, college and high school faculty can help develop a college-going culture for students.
Postsecondary partners can collaborate with early college schools in developing, implementing, and evaluating a range of student supports. The following examples of postsecondary partner activities are framed around domains of student support:
Domain of Support
Examples of Postsecondary Partner Resources & Activities
(2011 NASPA Conference presentation: “Supporting Underrepresented Students in Dual Enrollment Programs”)
Supporting successful postsecondary partnerships
On the postsecondary side, it is important to build a college-wide commitment to the goals and activities of the partnership with the early college school. The support of the president, provost, and other key members of the campus community can facilitate faculty engagement, resource allocation, and sustained commitment (The Woodrow Wilson Early College Network, 2008).
A postsecondary partnership must also be nurtured. Building in incentives and time to strengthen a partnership helps lead to a mutually valuable secondary-postsecondary collaboration. Establishing a Memorandum of Understanding or other agreement is also a common practice in secondary-postsecondary partnerships. These agreements can clarify the terms of the partnership, especially in relation to financing, access to college resources and facilities, and award of college credits.
The college liaison plays a central role in managing the high school-college partnership (Barnett et al., 2011). Based at either the high school or college, the college liaison role can include some or all of the following: enrolling and registering students in college classes; advising students as they transition to taking college courses; recruiting, supporting and communicating with college faculty; and assisting with decisions related to operations, student services, and curriculum (American Institutes for Research & SRI International, 2008).
Finally, there are several issues that should be addressed to support the development of a productive secondary-postsecondary partnership. The partners should understand K–12 and college standards and assessments; avoid teaching a “college lite” version of college courses; identify appropriate faculty and provide for their support and/or professional development; be mindful of overextending faculty commitments and time; clarify relevant logistics (e.g., schedule, transportation); and acknowledge potential resentment by college faculty toward teaching high school students (Vogt &Venezia, 2009). The involvement of high school and college faculty from the beginning of the partnership and a shared commitment to communicating high expectations to the high school students are both essential to the success of the partnership and the students being served (Barnett et al., 2011).
Since its start in 2003, Science, Technology and Research (STAR) Early College School has a history of intensive collaboration with its postsecondary partner, Brooklyn College. Guided by the partnership design principles of the Woodrow Wilson Early College Network, STAR's planners viewed faculty collaboration as the key to developing a common language, common expectations, and curricular alignment — all of which help embed student supports into the design of the school. Collaborative curriculum development is at the heart of these activities. The early college liaison encourages and coordinates the collaborations between high school and college faculty, works with STAR staff to schedule students in college courses, brokers support to students enrolled in college courses, manages the budget, and assists with fundraising to achieve the partnership’s vision for STAR (Newton & Vogt, 2008, p. 12).
The STAR/Brooklyn College partnership is organized both formally and informally in ways that maintain a consistent level of collaboration. An advisory committee with high school and college representatives met monthly in the first two years and twice each semester in the third and fourth years. Curriculum work groups of high school and college faculty from specific subject areas have met regularly to establish a sequence of courses and develop curriculum. At a summer retreat, high school and college staff and faculty mapped out the vision of the school and planned future educational activities.
In addition, several members of the Brooklyn College faculty offer onsite mentoring, including instructional and curriculum support, to STAR teachers. Some of these college faculty members note that the college liaison is particularly savvy at matching faculty who work well together. As a result, individual faculty partnerships have flourished. The Brooklyn College provost was instrumental in starting STAR Early College School and developing Brooklyn College’s capacity to partner with a new school. Following the provost’s retirement, the dean of education became the institution’s point person for supporting faculty and departments involved in STAR. (Vogt, 2007b, p. 9)
Built from the top-down and up from the grassroots
The partnership between University High School of Science and Engineering and the University of Hartford is highlighted by
- consistent support from the university’s senior leadership—the president and deans of each college
- connection to the university’s mission—a private university with a public purpose
- connection to the school’s science and engineering focus
- an emerging “Community of Practice” among university and high school faculty in which professional discourse on college readiness, student learning, and college academic expectations results in a creative array of early college collaborations
Examples of collaborations that focus specifically on student support include
- Senior year capstone projects embed college academic expectations as well as university campus-based experiences
- Educational Main Street is a program in which university undergraduates provide academic support to UHS students
- UHS students and faculty have access to the University of Hartford library
- All UHS graduates planning to attend the University of Hartford are invited to participate in the Summer Bridge Program operated by the university’s Hillyer College
- UHS graduates attending the University of Hartford are explicitly connected to the university’s Student Success Center as a place where they can find support
- An orientation program for incoming 9th graders includes activities in campus facilities, such as the wind tunnel and human performance lab
- The partnership is in an ongoing pursuit of offering college courses in science and engineering as well as beyond the school’s theme; for example, the university’s world language department has committed to provide courses in multiple languages to UHS students
- In a new arrangement, UHS students who are accepted to the university’s Hillyer College (a two-year program that provides small classes and tremendous support; undergraduate students are highly successful in Hillyer and when they transition into their junior year at the university) take a class the second semester of their senior year of high school to begin their transition and start getting acclimated to college
Because “the initiatives are ongoing and in a constant state of dynamic change to further the work of the Early College Model,” the depth of support from across the university’s colleges and faculty is critical for sustaining the partnership (D’Annolfo, Weinholtz, Colli, Brown, & Folan, 2011, p. 21).
Tools and resources
- Sample template for a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) between a school district and college/university.
- Early College Liaison Position Description.
- Ensuring College Success: Scaffolding Experiences for Students and Faculty in an Early College School by Anne Newton and Kristen Vogt illuminates the collaboration between STAR Early College School and Brooklyn College.
- Developing College Readiness in an Early College High School by Suzanne D’Annolfo, Donn Weinholtz, Elizabeth Colli, Aaron Brown, and Martin Folan offers lessons learned from the ongoing partnership between University High School of Science and Engineering and the University of Hartford.
- Does your school have a partnership with a postsecondary institution?
- Is there a strong connection between secondary and postsecondary partners in providing supports? If so, what makes it strong? Who leads that work? If no, what steps can you take to build a new partnership or strengthen an existing one?
- Are there collaborative structures in place between partners to enable the co-construction of the early college or college readiness model at your school?
- Are there barriers to the development and sustainability of a strong high school-postsecondary partnership, particularly around the issue of student supports?
A strong relationship between secondary and postsecondary partners is critical to the success of early college schools (National High School Center, 2007). Postsecondary involvement in college readiness reform makes for better outcomes regardless of whether or not a school is an early college school (Kirst & Venezia, 2004). Early college school students’ access to college information and resources can enhance their experience while taking college-level courses and once they enroll in college.
There are several benefits that result from secondary-postsecondary collaborations, including improving prospective students’ readiness, improving student recruitment efforts, improving high school and postsecondary curricula and pedagogy, providing opportunities for faculty to meet across education sectors to discuss pedagogy, providing opportunities to discuss P–16 approaches to changing curricula, and providing research opportunities for college faculty and graduate students (Barnett et al., 2011). All of these activities can lead to valuable supports for students as they make their transition from high school to college.Next Principle