Local data indicated a strong need for action to reduce high school dropout rates (nearly 50% for Black students) for our at risk population. The local school district enrollment is predominately from these categories with 76% minority and over 70% eligible for free or reduced lunches. In response to these data, Valdosta State University and the Valdosta City Schools partnered in 2008 to form the Valdosta Early College Academy (VECA). Currently, VECA is a 6-8 grade school with 105 students, 7 teachers and a principal. About 50 students are selected for a new 6th grade class each year. The school epitomizes the early college concept of admitting under-performing students with multiple risk factors for dropping out of school (e.g., low socioeconomic status, minority, first generation high school or college) and providing college level dual enrollment courses in the 11th grade. Key aspects include active student recruitment and monitoring of achievement, travel to provide experiential learning opportunities and expanding the vision of career possibilities, summer academic enrichment and required community service, and actively engaging the university and business community in supporting the students and school. However, they require further expansion, elaboration and data collection to support their influence to the program. Most importantly, if the student achievement results experienced to date continue, the structure we are putting in place could be a model that can be expanded in the district, started in new locations, and scalable to reach a much greater student population across any region of the country.
To learn more, contact Brian Gerber.