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Innovative schools provide new opportunities for some students

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A growing number of U.S. high schools have developed programs of study that may profoundly change secondary education for the top tier of underrepresented students.

In its Feb. 24 article, Time.com examines P-tech, a tuition-free, innovative six-year high school that awards not only diplomas, but also associate degrees. It says the networks of businesses and educators who ensure high schoolers are job-ready following graduation are what make P-tech work.

A second approach to high school education gaining in popularity is Early College High School (ECHS), reviewed April 27 on Huffingtonpost.com. This initiative has proven successful as a way for qualified underrepresented students to earn both high school and college credit at the same time for courses at no cost to themselves or to their families.

At ECHS schools like DECA in Dayton, Ohio, 70 miles west of Columbus, students develop personal skills and pursue rigorous coursework to graduate and go on to college, further training and jobs. On its site, the prep school states its purpose straightforwardly: “DECA is a pipeline not only to Ohio colleges but also to the Ohio professional workforce.” And even if some of these elite students fail to make the grade in an ECHS, and fail to enter that "pipeline' immediately, they still have the advantage of returning with better skills and more knowledge to their mainstream schools.

Both school types work well for a chosen few, but some critics say these exclusive programs do not solve our educational system's gravest problems for the 90 percent of underrepresented students who are not part of the minority of talented and gifted individuals.

Outspoken educator Diane Ravitch said on October 16, 2012, here in Columbus at the Public Common School Preservation Conference, that politics and profit motive must not overshadow one of the “true purposes of education: 'showing [all] children that they have talents and abilities' ”...and that they too can succeed.

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