The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Early College Initiative: Report and Recommendation from Early College Joint Committee on Designation Process

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
June 16, 2017

At the June 27, 2017 meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), Chair Sagan, Margaret McKenna, and Secretary Peyser, who serve on the Early College Joint Committee (ECJC), will present the final version of the proposed Early College Program Designation process and criteria to the BESE for discussion and a vote. Similarly, at the June 20, 2017 meeting of the Board of Higher Education (BHE), BHE members who serve on the ECJC will present the proposed process and criteria to the BHE for approval. This memorandum provides information on the High Quality College and Career Pathways initiative generally, and more specifically on the proposed Early College Program Designation process and criteria as recommended by the ECJC.

Introduction to the High Quality College and Career Pathways Initiative

Under the leadership of the Workforce Skills Cabinet, Massachusetts is embarking on a new chapter in college and career readiness for students in the Commonwealth through the launch of a High Quality College and Career Pathways (HQCCP) initiative in the summer of 2017. HQCCP is an overarching strategy for significantly expanding student access to high-quality career pathways with a focus on underserved populations, particularly in STEM fields.

HQCCP is the outgrowth of two complementary bodies of work that began in 2015 and 2016: Parthenon-EY's research on the early college landscape in Massachusetts, and the state's receipt of a highly competitive New Skills for Youth grant from the Council of Chief State School Officers to address the need for greater career preparation and access to high quality career pathways. Coordinating these initiatives through HQCCP will offer more structured pathway opportunities for students and increase our schools' capacity to fully prepare students for college and career.

The Early College Initiative, overseen by the Early College Joint Committee via a joint resolution of the BESE and BHE, is now one of two new types of HQCCPs, which are currently referred to as "Early College Pathways" and "Innovation Career Pathways." While more specific sets of characteristics will define each pathway, both are guided by a common vision and demonstrate fidelity to the five guiding principles defined in the Massachusetts Early College Designation - Preliminary Outline of Key Elements: equitable access, guided academic pathways, enhanced student support, connection to career, and effective partnerships.

Proposed Early College Designation Process and Criteria

As summarized in the May 23, 2017 Board memorandum, following the January 2017 joint meeting of the BESE and BHE, an interagency working group was formed, consisting of staff members from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), the Department of Higher Education (DHE), and the Executive Office of Education (EOE). The working group drafted criteria consistent with the Key Design Principles of a Massachusetts Early College, along with an application and review process for designating partnerships among public school districts and public or private institutions of higher education as Massachusetts Early Colleges.

The ECJC met twice this spring. At its first meeting on April 12, 2017, the ECJC reviewed and provided initial feedback to the working group on the Massachusetts Early College Program Designation Process and Criteria - Preliminary Draft Document Download PDF Document and a timeline for designation. During the month of May the working group solicited input on this document via conversations with policy thought partners, including the Barr Foundation, Jobs for the Future, the Rennie Center; two in-person sessions, with individuals from K-12, higher education, and the business community who are involved in existing early college partnerships; and an invitation to these key practitioners and experts to also provide written feedback.

At its second meeting on May 31, 2017 the ECJC reconvened to review a revised version of the designation criteria based on the initial stakeholder input. Staff reported on common themes that emerged from the process and highlighted key changes from the previous version, including a more clearly articulated vision and an expanded rationale for the guiding principles. After discussion, the ECJC moved to endorse the general approach as outlined and directed staff at DHE and DESE to share the updated draft of the early college designation criteria more broadly, refine the details as needed based on additional stakeholder feedback, and then send the proposed design to the two boards for their approval.

Following the May ECJC meeting, the updated draft of the designation criteria was posted to the DESE website, with a request for review and comment to be submitted by June 12, 2017. During the first full week in June, the working group held two additional in-person focus group sessions, expanding outreach efforts to include more high school principals, higher education representatives, and individuals from the business community. The interagency working group has summarized responses from the field and made minor revisions to the designation criteria for presentation at the June BHE and BESE meetings. The final document is attached.

Senior Associate Commissioner Cliff Chuang; Keith Westrich, Associate Commissioner for College, Career, and Technical Education; Nyal Fuentes, College and Career Readiness Coordinator; and Jennifer Gwatkin, Early College Coordinator, will be at the June 27 BESE meeting to respond to your questions.


Download PDF Document
Early College Program Designation Process and Criteria