2015-2016 Early College High School (ECHS) Designation

Word version

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 §102.1093, the ECHS designation process is required for all existing and proposed ECHS campuses. Schools that receive the ECHS designation will receive a number of benefits, including:

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.

2)   Eligibility for Exemption from Dual Credit Restrictions

The program design of an ECHS focuses on allowing students, based on their performance, to begin college courses as soon as they are able, possibly as early as the 9th grade. However, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) dual credit rules state that

  • a student is eligible to enroll in dual credit courses in the eleventh and/or twelfth grade if the student meets certain eligibility requirements, and
  • high school students shall not be enrolled in more than two dual credit courses per semester.

In order to fulfill the program design, a designated ECHS must receive an exemption through the THECB from dual credit restrictions. In order to receive this exemption, an ECHS must first receive approval from TEA in accordance with TAC §4.161.

3)   Eligibility for State Programs

Designated ECHS campuses may take advantage of activities and programs designed by the Texas Legislature, the TEA, and the THECB that 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 the TEA and the THECB for ECHS administrators and principals to provide input on policies and procedures that impact ECHS.

4)   Membership in the ECHS Network:

The TEA periodically provides opportunities for principals, teachers, and students at designated ECHS campuses through the ECHS network to share best practices through conferences and technical assistance sessions.

5)   Access to Professional Development and Technical Assistance:

Designated ECHS campuses will have access to high-quality professional development and technical assistance.

6)   Recognition for Fidelity to the ECHS Model:

Through the designation process, the TEA and the THECB formally approve and recognize those ECHS campuses that are designed and operated according to the ECHS Blueprint.

To Apply for ECHS Designation

  • Applications are available online at http://thetrc.org/ECHS.
  • Districts interested in applying for designation on behalf of a new campus are encouraged to submit a notice of intent to apply. The Notice of Intent to Apply for ECHS Designation is available online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XQB9QQB.
  • Applications must be submitted to the TEA through the online application interface on or before December 19, 2014 in order to serve as a designated ECHS campus during the 2015-2016 school year. The TEA will notify each applicant of its approval status to operate a designated ECHS campus in Spring 2015.
  • Districts must complete this application each year in order to renew ECHS Designation. Certain currently designated ECHS campuses will only need to submit an abbreviated application.

Technical Assistance

  • The ECHS designation application for 2015-2016 is an online, web-based application. It is the same application used in the 2014-2015 application process.
  • The technical assistance webinar is not required, however attendance is strongly encouraged for new applicants, or for administrators who are new to the ECHS application process. The webinar 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@tea.state.tx.us. Answers will be provided during the webinar (which will be recorded) and in an FAQ document. 
  • The ECHS Technical Assistance webinar will be held Tuesday, November 18, 2014, at 2:00 p.m. Register at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/377741802.



Monday, November 3, 2014

ECHS Designation Application available

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Technical Assistance Webinar

Register at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/377741802 

Tuesday, November 21, 2014

Notice of Intent to Apply Due

Districts that plan to apply for designation of a new ECHS are encouraged to submit a Notice of Intent to Apply.


Friday, December 19, 2014


Applications to serve as a designated Early College High School during the 2015-2016 school year must be received by TEA no later than 5:00 p.m. on December 19, 2014.

Spring 2015

Notification of Designation

Districts or charters submitting applications for ECHS designation will be notified of either selection or non-selection as a designated ECHS.


Monica Martinez
Associate Commissioner
Standards and Programs