A new Toledo Public Schools program will allow up to 400 students to receive a high school diploma and an associate's degree from the University of Toledo during the same four years.
Beginning in the fall, 100 of the district's freshmen will attend classes at the University of Toledo's Scott Park campus. An additional freshman class will be added each year, Superintendent Eugene Sanders said last night.
"We are going to try and focus on first-generation college students," Mr. Sanders said. "We see this as a tremendous opportunity for recruitment and retention."
The "Early College High School" program will be funded by a $400,000 grant from the KnowledgeWorks Foundation. In 2002, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave $2.7 million to develop up to six early college high schools in Ohio.
Any student in the district may apply for the program, and since Toledo Public Schools allows out-of-district students to enroll, any high school student in Ohio conceivably could be accepted, said Craig Cotner, chief academic officer for the school system.
District officials plan to formally announce the program during a news conference this morning.
"Part of the grant requires that preference be given to students who would be first-generation college students - those of poverty and students historically under-represented at universities, which would be minorities and students with limited English skills," Mr. Cotner said. "I think it's just a wonderful opportunity for the Toledo area and for Toledo students.
The University of Toledo's tuition is $7,067. The selected students would not be required to pay college tuition, Mr. Cotner said.
A similar program is operated in Dayton, he added.
Much of the college-level work would be done in the students' junior and senior years. The teaching staff will be a combination of instructors from Toledo Public Schools and the university.
Mr. Sanders said safety precautions would be taken for the younger high school students while on the college campus.
"The university had some concerns about space," Mr. Sanders said. "The Scott Park campus is a good size, and they will have a lot of room for movement."
Since the district has experienced a steady enrollment decline over the last 10 years, administrators have been looking for ways to attract students. During the 2003-2004 school year, 4,164 students in the Toledo district attended charter schools.
The early college initiative is part of the school district's effort to reform high school education and lure back some of those students.
Mr. Sanders noted that the district has made other changes on the high school level. Libbey and Scott high schools were redesigned into "small schools" at the start of the school year. Each building houses four separate schools, each of which has different academic focus and different administrative teams.
KnowledgeWorks awarded Libbey a $776,475 grant and committed $931,005 to Scott.
In addition, Toledo Public Schools is among a handful of districts in the country that have established separate boys' and girls' schools as a means of improving educational opportunities.
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