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Dear Friends,

Promoting an education system that provides every child with the opportunity to be successful in school and in life is at the heart of the Rennie Center's mission. For this reason, early college programs have been a focus of our work over the last several years. We know from our research on early college designs that allowing high school students to take courses on a college campus gives more students the ability to attend and graduate from college.

We are pleased to see this approach attracting state-wide attention, including potential legislation to expand early college programs. This month, we are joining the Executive Office of Education, the Department of Higher Education, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and several local organizations to host an event launching the Massachusetts Early College Initiative. The event will feature remarks from Governor Charlie Baker and early college pioneers. I hope you will join us on March 23rd to hear more about this crucial approach to college and career readiness. 


Chad Signiture

Chad d'Entremont, Ph.D.
Executive Director




High school graduation rates have continued to climb in Massachusetts, reaching a 10-year high according to the latest data from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. In 2016, more than 87 percent of high school students graduated in four years and, while achievement gaps persist, efforts to support all students in getting a diploma are having an impact. All state-designated student subgroups saw an increase in graduation rates last year. Rates among high needs students increased to 79 percent, up from 74 percent in 2012.

But while more and more students receive diplomas each year, many go off to college unprepared for the academic and non-academic challenges that accompany life on a college campus. Thirty percent of Massachusetts public school students require developmental—or remedial—courses when enrolling in the state’s public colleges and universities. That means students are spending valuable time and money on courses that won’t count toward a degree. Success in college not only requires academic readiness, but also perseverance, independence, and resourcefulness. Without preparation and support, many students leave college when challenges arise. Only 46 percent of Massachusetts community college students and 56 percent of Massachusetts state university students graduate in 6 years.

We need to do more to address this transition from high school to college. Instead of helping college students catch up on content they should have learned in high school, we should be allowing high school students to tackle college-level learning. Nothing can prepare students for higher education like the actual college experience.

This approach, known as early college, allows students to take college courses while still in high school and earn credit for both. Our research on early college designs found that by getting a head start on college, students can reduce the time and cost of getting a degree, get acquainted with expectations and cultural norms of college campuses, and identify skill gaps that can be addressed before they start paying tuition. This experience can also make college more accessible for students who don’t think of themselves as college-bound.  All this leads to a smoother transition and higher rates of college persistence. Eighty-six percent of early college graduates who enroll in college stay for a second year, compared to 72 percent of all college students nationally.

Early college programs are finding success throughout the state. One promising example is a partnership between the Pathways Early College Innovation High School in Gardner and Mount Wachusett Community College. The program gives students from 23 districts the chance to take courses on the Mount Wachusett campus, earning a high school diploma and an associate’s degree simultaneously. The program recruits a largely low-income, first-generation college-going population that might not attend college without this opportunity.

Early college programs like this may soon be getting more state support and recognition. A bill making its ways through the State House, An Act relative to early college high schools, calls for the creation of a state early college designation for programs that meet certain criteria. Legislators will also be seeking state funding for these designated Massachusetts Early College Schools. This would help to spread programs like the one at Mount Wachusett and give more students access to tuition-free early college experiences.

These programs can eliminate the common barriers to college enrollment and graduation like insufficient academic preparation, lack of “college knowledge,” and rising costs, providing Massachusetts with the ability to increase the size and diversity of the college-going population. This is an important next step in creating a system that provides every child with the opportunity for success after graduation.

The four-year high school graduation rate is one key indicator the Rennie Center uses to assess progress in our education system. To learn about other indicators and look at progress over time or outcomes for different student groups, check out our interactive data dashboard


Please contact Catherine Rauseo at 617-354-0002, ext. 8 with any questions.


Upcoming Events

Massachusetts Early College Initiative Launch
March 23, 8:00am
UMass Club, Boston

Featured Speaker: Governor Baker
Join the state of Massachusetts, the Rennie Center, Jobs for the Future, MassINC, and the MA Business Roundtable for the launch of this initiative to support the expansion of high-quality early college programs.

Carnegie Foundation 2017 Summit
The Rennie Center will be presenting a poster at the Carnegie Foundation 2017 Summit on Improvement in Education in San Francisco on March 27-29. Learn more about the education, networking, and leadership opportunities available at the summit or register to attend.

Rennie in the News

Graduation rate hits 10-year high
March 9, 2017
By Gerry Tuoti, Wicked Local

"Increasing graduation rates and reducing dropouts is a critical piece of building a high-functioning public education system, and the state should be proud of the work it's done," said Chad d'Entremont…[Read More]

Prioritizing Collaboration in a Time of Contention 
March 6, 2017
By Chad d’Entremont, Geoff Marietta, and Emily Murphy Kaur, 
Voices in Education

While the factors driving current divisions among the voting public are myriad, a significant source of conflict has been our new president’s confrontational approach to leadership...[Read More]

To Put America First, Start With Public Education
March 2, 2017
By Nick Donohue, Medium

A recent poll [by the Rennie Center] found New Englanders overwhelmingly believe that students across the region are graduating unprepared for college or a career...[Read More]

We Know How To Prepare Students For Life — Now, Let's Do It
February 24, 2017
By Chad d'Entremont & Nick Donohue, WBUR's Edify

With a new education secretary comes new ideas and renewed discussion on how best to invest in the success of all children. As this discussion unfolds, we must look beyond narrow debates on school choice and vouchers in order to address an issue of much larger importance to our future: Are our schools preparing our children for life?...[Read More]

Rennie's Work Featured in New Book

  Dr. V. Scott Solberg of Boston University published The Handbook of Career and Workforce Development. It references his work with the Massachusetts Institute of College and Career Readiness, a collaboration between BU, the Rennie Center and MassINC. Learn More


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