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DC schools partner with college to offer associate degrees to high-schoolers

WASHINGTON — Starting next school year, high school students in D.C. will have another option if they want to get their associate degrees while earning their high school diplomas.

D.C. is partnering with Bard College in New York and opening the Bard Early College High School, Mayor Muriel Bowser and interim school chancellor Amanda Alexander announced Wednesday in a news release.

The school will be a tuition-free, four-year, early college high school operated jointly by Bard College and D.C. public schools.

The mayor said that the school answers the community’s call for more early college options and builds new pathways to college for young people.

The school system will determine the site of the school in the coming months and will seek community input, but it will be located in either wards 7 or 8, where residents expressed interest in early college options for students.

The new school will open with ninth- and 11th-grade cohorts of some 150 students. Admission will be based on an essay and an interview, rather than test scores or grades.

Bard Early Colleges associate vice president Clara Haskell Botstein told The Washington Post that the school is looking for students who are “not necessarily perfect on paper, but students who demonstrate a spark of intellectual curiosity.”

Families can begin applying starting Dec. 10.

Graduates of the school will have the opportunity to earn an associate degree and 60 college credits that are transferable to four-year colleges.

“We are confident that our model, in which the first two years of college are integrated into the four-year high school curriculum, will succeed in this forward-looking school system,” Bard College president Leon Botstein said in a news release.

The D.C.’s public school system operates an early college program at School Without Walls in Ward 2 through a partnership with The George Washington University; and it will also offer an early college program at Calvin Coolidge Senior High School in Ward 4 next year.

Bard College operates early college high schools in other cities nationwide, including one in Baltimore.

The city’s school system has experienced a string of scandals in the last couple of years.

The number of students graduating on time in D.C. schools was 59 percent in June.

In 2017, the school system reported it was at 73 percent. But later, an investigation into graduation requirements and absentee policies at Ballou High School found that teachers were pressured by the school’s principal and other administrators to pass students despite their grade or the number of unexcused absences.

And in February, the schools chancellor Antwan Wilson resigned after it was reported that he violated system policy by circumventing the lottery process to get a school transfer for his child.


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