The celebration Friday of the first “A” grade for an LCPS school on the state’s report card combined compliments and cheers with a challenge to students and faculty of Lenoir County Early College High School to hit that high note again in 2019.
“I want to ask you where are you going from here. Are you going to keep it up?” LCPS Superintendent Brent Williams told Early College students and staff during a program in the gym at Lenoir Community College, where Early College is house.
“I know for certain that Lenoir County Early College High School is on its way to being a perennial ‘A’ every year. I am confident this celebration will not be a self-contained event. Instead, it will be a continuous celebration of excellence.”
Since the 2013-2014 school year, the state has issued school performance letter grades for every public and charter school in the state. For high schools, the grade is a composite of a number of indicators, including performance on end-of-course tests and ACT and ACT WorkKey, tests designed to determine college and career readiness. Eighty percent of the letter-grade score is based on these indicators and 20 percent on students’ academic growth.
Early College’s “A” grade came with 2017-18 testing after three years of consistently grading out as a “B” – still the highest in the district. Early College also posts the highest graduation rate among the district’s five high schools and has twice been listed among Best High Schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Early College principal Diane Heath said the school’s success stems from its unity and called attention to the myriad parts that comprise “the Phoenix family,” from students and faculty to LCPS and LCC support teams
“We have a vast number of parts, but putting all those parts together is what makes us unique. It takes all of us, all of us working together, and that is what has gotten us to this day,” Heath said. “We all may not look the same or act the same, but we all should have some goals that are entirely the same.”
A partnership between LCPS and LCC, Early College is the district’s most non-traditional school, operating on the LCC campus and on the college’s calendar. Students follow a course of study that accelerates learning with the aim of completing high school requirements within the first two years and moving into college-level work. After four or five years, most students graduate with a two-year degree or career-ready certification in a trade skill as well as a diploma – all free of the cost of college tuition.
Since Early College’s founding in August 2007, its enrollment has grown from an initial class of 50 to more than 200. This past May, Early College graduated 56 seniors, 43 of whom also earned either an associate degree or occupation certification from Lenoir Community College.
Dr. Deborah Grimes, the college’s senior vice president of instruction and student services, was part of the team that created an early college institution in Lenoir County and was included as a speaker in Friday’s program.
“You’re going to graduate being a part of an ‘A’ grade. This is quite an accomplishment,” Grimes said to the students. “I could not be more proud and our college could not be more proud, so a huge congratulations to each of you.”
The program also featured senior Michael Adams singing “Rise Up,” a video of faculty and students dancing in celebration and a standing ovation for the Early College faculty and staff.
Representing the district staff on stage with Superintendent Williams were Associate Superintendent Frances Herring and Assistant Superintendent Nicholas Harvey II, a former Early College principal.