The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Early College Initiative in Massachusetts

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Higher Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., DESE Commissioner
Carlos E. Santiago, Ph.D., DHE Commissioner
January 12, 2017


In January 2016, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and Board of Higher Education (BHE) met together to discuss the topic of early college programming and to better understand the entire spectrum of early college models found throughout the Commonwealth. One result of the meeting was a joint expression of interest from BESE and BHE to further explore the early college landscape in Massachusetts. Through the generous support of the Barr Foundation and partnership with Parthenon-EY, a joint steering committee and working group was charged with exploring the role that early college pathways could play in helping improve college access and postsecondary completion in Massachusetts.

Early College Research Project - Parthenon-EY

Parthenon-EY presented their initial findings to BHE in September 2016 followed by a presentation at the BESE's December 20, 2016 meeting. The Parthenon-EY report highlights a number of advantages to the state's use of early college high schools as a means of improving college access and postsecondary completion, particularly for first-generation college students, including the strategy's alignment with state goals, the strong foundation of local early college programs, and the ability to achieve improved outcomes at reasonable costs.

The idea of using early college pathways to promote postsecondary completion is not new to the Commonwealth. Local school districts, postsecondary institutions, and non-profit organizations across the state have pioneered early college models and promoted their expansion for many years. The goal of the Parthenon-EY study is to knit together this work, along with other dual enrollment efforts, and provide recommendations regarding what it would take to build a broad- scale, statewide early college initiative. This effort is wholly consistent with a broader parallel initiative to define and develop high quality career pathways, for which we have just received a 2 million grant from the Council of Chief State School Officers and JP Morgan Chase.

For all students, particularly first-generation and students traditionally underrepresented in post- secondary education, early college is an opportunity to engage in college-level work, develop a deeper understanding of the college experience, and envision themselves as college students. Early college programs can help improve high school graduation and college completion rates, and allow students to compress the amount of time and reduce the cost necessary to complete an associate or a bachelor's degree, while experiencing career-related activities in a particular field or industry.

Early College Presentation and Preliminary Endorsement of Joint Resolution

At our joint meeting on January 24, 2017, staff leadership from DESE and DHE will provide a brief presentation of the early college proposal followed by an opportunity for the boards to discuss and vote on a joint resolution to move the early college work forward in Massachusetts. You will also hear from a leader of a school that currently provides early college programming. The proposed joint resolution establishes a 5-member Early College Joint Committee comprised of the chairs of the BESE and BHE or their designees, an additional member of each board designated by the chairs, and the Secretary of Education, to oversee the development of a process for designating Massachusetts Early College Schools, working with both commissioners and departments to develop a process for reviewing, approving, overseeing, and evaluating applicants for the new designation as well as helping to guide the growth of the effort. More details can be found in the attached Massachusetts Early College Designation - Preliminary Outline of Key Elements document (Attachment A). A full proposal will be brought back to both boards for final approval by June 30, 2017.


View External Link
Parthenon-EY Report
Download Word Document
Joint Steering Committee and Working Group Membership
Download Word Document
Massachusetts Early College Designation - Preliminary Outline of Key Elements
Joint Resolution