iddle college high schools, or early college high schools, have begun to garner interest among both parents and students. According to the California Department of Education, these schools are “designed so that all students can achieve two years of college credit at the same time [as] they are earning a high school diploma.”
Middle college high schools often appeal to families financially, especially with the rising prices of college tuition. Since students complete some college courses in high school, they do not have to spend money taking these courses later at universities.
Additionally, these high schools appeal to high-achieving students in search of different learning atmospheres that are much smaller than average high schools and typically located near or on community college campuses.
Academy of the Canyons Middle College High School (AOC) principal Pete Getz addressed the impacts of a small school in an interview with JSR, saying, “A small school is intimate, individualized, and allows students to be themselves in a comfortable environment.”
Continuing, Getz emphasized the curricular differences between these schools and traditional high schools.
“A lot of schools are good at… meeting the minimum graduation requirements for the high school district. The biggest problem students are having, then, is that they are often not prepared… to be successful at the college level in the following year,” he told JSR. “When students are at AOC [they] spend time taking college classes and… [learn] how to function in the college environment.”
Additionally, students at AOC have benefitted from building individualized relationships with both their college and high school teachers.
James Hurrell, a sophomore at AOC, told JSR, “I truly appreciate that the teachers respect us and care about how well we are doing. They are willing to help us in any way that we need.”
Perhaps because of these aspects, Academy of the Canyons is the highest performing school the William Hart Union School District with an overall district Academic Performance Index (API) score of 941 out of 1,000 and 100% passing rate on the California High School Exit Exam.
Yet middle college high schools like AOC are but one type of alternative high school program. Some other programs include independent study schools, where students work alone rather than in a class, and magnet schools, which are schools that focus on advanced work in specific areas of study. While these academic environments may not be right for everybody, the growth in different high school options gives students opportunities to find a perfect fit for themselves.