Academic journal article Community College Review

Integrating High School and the Community College: Previous Efforts and Current Possibilities

Academic journal article Community College Review

Integrating High School and the Community College: Previous Efforts and Current Possibilities

Article excerpt

This article explores three incarnations of the idea to integrate high school and the community college--Leonard Koos's 6-4-4 plan of public school organization, Middle College High School, and the early college high school initiative. The author discusses rationales for integrating high school and the first 2 years of college, as well as possible reasons why the 6-4-4 plan and middle college high schools were not as widely implemented as their founders may have envisioned. The article concludes with a look to the future and identifies policy changes that must occur if early colleges are to become a significant and successful pathway from high school both to and through college.

Keywords: secondary education; junior college; 6-4-4 plan; middle adolescence; early college high school


Educational ideas are rarely new; they simply reemerge at different times, under different circumstances, and are put forth by different people. The idea behind the early college high school--an educational initiative that has garnered significant attention in recent years among educators, policy makers, and philanthropists--is no exception to this statement. Early college high schools are small, autonomous institutions that combine high school and the first 2 years of college into a coherent educational program. By minimizing the physical transition between high school and college, and allowing students to move ahead in subjects as they demonstrate success, early colleges enable students to earn a high school diploma and complete 2 years of college credit (or an associate's degree) within 4 to 5 years of entering ninth grade (Jobs for the Future, 2004). Most early college high schools are located on or near community college campuses, as these institutions have the most experience with dual enrollment initiatives and are committed to serving low-income, minority, and at-risk students (Webb, 2004). During the past few years, the early college initiative has garnered much praise from educators, parents, students, and policy makers and has to date received more than $120 million in start-up funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

The idea to integrate the last few years of public secondary school with the first 2 years of college is not new. In the 1930s and 1940s, Leonard Koos, an influential scholar at the universities of Minnesota and Chicago, promoted the 6-4-4 plan of public education then in place in the Pasadena and Compton school districts in California as well as districts in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Mississippi. According to Koos (1946), the 6-4-4 plan, which places grades 7 through 10 in junior high school and grades 11 through 14 in junior college, "is at once the most effective and the most economical means of bringing the full advantage of the junior high school and the junior college to the community" (p. 187). And in the early 1970s, educators in the Bronx section of New York City created the Middle College High School (MCHS) at LaGuardia Community College for disadvantaged 9th through 12th graders who might benefit from a nontraditional setting in which they could learn with and from community college students. Encouraged by praise from Ernest Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and aided by funding from the Ford Foundation, educators at LaGuardia's MCHS helped replicate the institution at several community colleges across the country.

Yet neither of these attempts to integrate high school and the first 2 years of college significantly changed educational practice on a national scale. Indeed, Koos's 6-4-4 plan was largely ignored by local communities across the country that were, at the time, pushing for their very own junior colleges, funded and administered separately from their local school districts (Pedersen, 2000). …

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