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Building an Early College High School

Date Published: April 17, 2024

Author: Veritas Prep Charter School

Veritas Prep Charter School has been educating middle school students in Springfield since 2012. In the fall of 2022, the school added a high school in response to demand from its community. The year-long high school design process involved families, faculty, alumni, and members of the community. Together, they first developed a portrait of a graduate and then worked backward to create a school design focused on early college – a model that enables students to earn college credits while in high school, allowing them the opportunity to graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate degree. Studies demonstrate that early college is a true difference-maker for underrepresented and under-resourced communities across the country.

Kori Alston was the first hire for the high school; he joined the Veritas Prep team in a project management capacity before the high school building even had walls. When the high school opened, Kori served as Dean of Early College and then moved into the role of Principal to focus on integrating early college into every aspect of the high school experience.

Through the early college partnerships, Veritas Prep students take classes at Springfield Technical Community College and Worcester State University. Every student’s schedule is tailored to their readiness for college classes, but all schedules are designed to reflect the college experience. High school classes taught by a Veritas Prep teacher meet three times weekly for 75 minutes each. College classes are taught by a professor, with a Veritas Prep college liaison there to support, and meet twice weekly; a third session is facilitated by a Veritas Prep liaison, and these meetings focus on reviewing content, working on assignments, receiving feedback, and more. Kori explains that this on-ramp to college provides critical extra support. As students become more experienced and confident, they will transition to taking college electives independently.

Students gather in a classroom and listen to a teacher give a presentation.

Kori emphasizes Veritas Prep’s individualized approach and relationship-oriented support is key to the success of the early college model. Veritas Prep evaluates each student’s performance in high school classes, taking into account teacher feedback and data points such as participation, grades, and writing ability, to understand the student’s readiness for college. When the school is confident a student is ready academically, they are able to enroll in college courses with the full support of Veritas Prep faculty. Kori describes the first college class as an emotional challenge, but incredibly reinforcing. As students persevere, they build momentum and truly internalize the belief, “I can succeed at college.” The more students become immersed in college, the more excited and confident they become to embrace their identity as college students.

Veritas Prep’s first cohort of students to attend college classes achieved a 96% success rate, and the second cohort had a 100% success rate. Kori shared that Veritas Prep families are deeply committed to the school and its vision, and as they’ve seen their students gain college credits, the investment only continues to increase.

“I believe in Veritas Prep, its mission, and the early college program. I want opportunities for my kids that I didn’t have. My older child is a freshman this year, and he’s already taking college classes. I’m really hopeful and excited that my son will graduate with an associate’s degree and without the burden of debt. He’ll have an open door to success. I feel so blessed.”
– Angela Gonzalez, Veritas Prep Parent

After just two years of high school, over 50% of Veritas Prep’s inaugural class has earned enough credits to graduate with associates degrees in addition to their high school diplomas, and every single student will graduate with a minimum of 12 college credits. Kori hopes and plans for this success to continue for each future Veritas Prep class. Those credits are not only an admirable marker of hard work and academic achievement, they also represent the meaningful self-exploration that Veritas Prep students experience through the early college model. Kori points to students’ strong sense of self and clear visions for their futures as important indicators of current and future success.