Early College High School (ECHS) Designation, 2014-2015

Word Version

October 7, 2013

To the Administrator Addressed:

SUBJECT: Early College High School (ECHS) Designation, 2014-2015

The purpose of this letter is to inform school districts and open-enrollment charter schools of an upcoming opportunity related to Early College High School designation. Information and timelines are provided below.

ECHS Designation
Early College High Schools (ECHS) are innovative high schools that allow students least likely to attend college an opportunity to earn a high school diploma and up to 60 college credit hours. Under the authority of Texas Education Code (TEC), §29.908(b), and Texas Administrative Code (TAC), §102.1091, the TEA has developed a designation process for Early College High Schools. The designation process ensures that districts and colleges operating ECHS campuses maintain the integrity of the model, which was researched and designed to target and serve students who would not otherwise consider attending college.

In accordance with TAC §102.1091, the designation process is required for all existing and proposed ECHS campuses. Schools that receive the ECHS designation will receive a number of benefits, including the following:
 
1) Recognition as an approved ECHS campus
Schools designated by TEA as state-approved ECHS campuses will receive various forms of media recognition including, but not limited to, identification on TEA’s website as a state-approved ECHS campus and recognition in press releases.

Through the designation process, TEA and THECB formally approve and recognize those ECHS campuses that are designed and operated according to the ECHS Blueprint. The ECHS Blueprint is intended to serve as a road map for initiating, implementing, and exemplar ECHS campuses. In order to receive the ECHS designation, a school must be designed and implemented using the Early College High School Blueprint. All applicants and potential applicants are encouraged to review the ECHS Blueprint at http://www.edtx.org/uploads/general/ECHS_Blueprint.pdf.

2) Eligibility for exemption from dual credit restrictions
The ECHS program design focuses on allowing students to begin college courses based on their performance as soon as they are able, possibly as early as the 9th grade. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s (THECB) rules in TAC §4.85(b) on student eligibility generally limit enrollment in dual credit courses state to students in the eleventh and/or twelfth grade (if the student meets certain eligibility requirements) and limit high school students to enrollment in no more than two dual credit courses per semester.

Designated ECHS campuses may receive an exemption through the THECB from these dual credit restrictions. In order to receive exemption from dual credit restrictions, an ECHS must first receive approval from TEA. This approval is then forwarded to THECB.

3) Eligibility for state programs
Designated ECHS campuses may take advantage of activities and programs designed by the Texas Legislature, TEA, and THECB to target Early College High Schools. Examples include, but are not limited to

(a) Optional Flexible School Day: a program created by the Texas Legislature to provide ECHS campuses (and other specified schools) with a flexible method of attendance accounting. This program is designed to enable school districts or charters to receive funding for serving students outside of the regular school day.
(b) ECHS Convenings: Special events hosted by TEA and THECB for ECHS administrators and principals to provide input on policies and procedures that impact ECHS.

4) Membership in the ECHS Network
TEA periodically provides opportunities for principals, teachers, and students in designated ECHS campuses through the ECHS network to share best practices through conferences and technical assistance sessions.

5) Access to Resources
Designated ECHS campuses will have access to state-level resources that support implementation of ECHS, to the extent available.

Application for Designation for 2014-2015
Over the last several months, the TEA has taken steps to transition to an updated and streamlined ECHS designation process. Designation application instructions are below.
• Applications must be submitted to TEA through the online application interface on or before November 22, 2013 in order to operate as a designated ECHS campus during the 2014-2015 school year. The TEA will notify each applicant of its approval status to operate a designated ECHS campus in early 2014.
• Applications are available online at http://thetrc.org/echs.
• Districts must complete this application each year in order to renew ECHS designation.
 
Technical Assistance:
• Please note that the ECHS designation application for 2014-2015 is an online, web-based application. Previous designation cycles completed a Word version. Applications will only be accepted through the online application interface.
• The technical assistance webinar is not required, however attendance is strongly encouraged and will provide potential applicants the ability to learn how to access and navigate the online, web-based application system.
• All questions regarding the completion of the designation application should be submitted in writing to Laura Gaines, program coordinator, via email at laura.gaines@tea.texas.gov. Answers will be provided during the webinar (which will be recorded) and in will be recorded in an FAQ document. 
• ECHS Webinar Technical Assistance is scheduled for Tuesday October 22, 2013, at 2:00 p.m. Register at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/359239194

Designation Timeline

Monday,
October 7,
2013

ECHS Designation Application available

(http://thetrc.org/echs)

Tuesday, October 22,
2013

Webinar – Technical Assistance

Register at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/359239194

Friday, November 22, 2013

APPLICATION DUE

Applications must be received at TEA no later than
5:00 p.m. on November 22, 2013
in order to be considered for approval to operate a designated Early College High School during the 2014-2015 school year.

December 9-20, 2013

Campuses may be contacted for clarifying information.

Friday,
January 10,
2014

Notification of designation for new ECHS campuses

Districts or charter schools submitting applications by November 22, 2013 on behalf of a campus will be notified of the final outcome of their application.

Monday,
February 10, 2014

Notification of designation for current ECHS campuses

Districts or charter schools submitting applications by November 22, 2013 on behalf of a campus will be notified of the final outcome of their application.


Sincerely,


Monica Martinez
Interim Associate Commissioner
Standards and Programs