This story has been corrected.

Although Longview ISD has ended funding for its Early College High School, the program will continue with new partnerships with four-year schools to focus on core classes.

The program started in the 2015-16 school year to give students a cost-free way to earn an associate degree or at least 60 credit hours from Kilgore College. The program started with a group, or cohort, of 92 freshmen, and every cohort since was limited to about 100 students.

Entering its fourth year, LISD no longer will offer students in the program free tuition from KC but has entered additional partnerships with Stephen F. Austin State University and the University of Texas. Teaming with more schools eliminates the cohort limit, allowing more students to join the program, said Carla Williams, assistant principal high school early college and dual credit.

Whether a student pursues an associate or bachelor’s degree, the student must complete the Texas Core Curriculum — 42 semester credit hours, or 14 approved courses in subjects such as math and history.

“We have focused on the associate degree in the past. The associate degree is made up of the 42 core hours and the additional hours to get to 60,” Williams said. “Because we’re working with UT and SFA, they’re four-year universities, (so) we are focusing on the core because the four-year universities don’t offer associate degrees.”

Students in the Early College High School program can choose to pursue an associate degree from KC or complete the core curriculum with a combination of courses from either of the four-year universities, she said.

The district decided to discontinue the program’s funding this year, so incoming freshmen and sophomores will have to pay tuition. Because juniors and seniors are further along, they will not have to pay, Williams said.

However, she added that while KC and SFA courses are not tuition-free, UT courses are.

“(The UT classes) are courses that the Legislature has agreed and signed off on to pay for, so as long as the Legislature continues to approve those classes ... (they) are free to the student,” Williams said.

The district will continue to purchase students’ books in classroom sets, she said.

“We already have a room full of books for Kilgore,” Williams said. “I’ve talked with SFA. They’re going to let us determine the college-level books that we’re going to use. They’ll probably match our Kilgore books with our SFA to save money. I’m working on UT now ... but we do pay for the books.”

All of the courses offered will be taught on the LHS campus. KC instructors will continue to teach courses in person. SFA and UT will not send professors to the campus, she said.

“The SFA courses will be taught by current high school teachers that have the approved SFA credentials,” Williams said. “Our UT classes (have) a totally different setup. The University of Texas has a professor that oversees the high school teacher. ... The instructor will assign the grade. Then ... depending on their grade, the parent can choose to accept the college credit or say I don’t want that on my transcript.”

Students still have time to sign up for the program, but they must complete college admissions applications for KC and SFA and receive a certain score on the Texas Success Initiative test.

In 2015, Longview High School was one of 44 schools in the state and the only one in Gregg County to be designated as an Early College High School by the Texas Education Agency.

The Legislature created the Early College High School program in 2005 to target students who are at risk of not graduating from high school and allow them to earn college credits through a rigorous and structured model.

Longview ISD ended its Global High School program to begin the Early College High School program.

Parents are invited to an informational meeting regarding updates to the Early College High School program at 6 p.m. Thursday in the LHS Little Theater. For more information, contact Williams at ctwilliams@lisd.org.

Reporter

Brittany Michelle Williams, an University of Arkansas alumna, serves East Texas as an education reporter at the Longview News-Journal. She won the Arkansas Press Association's 2017 First Place Coverage in Education award, for her work with the El Dorado N