Early College Program Aims To Improve Male Graduation Rate - WSPA.com

Early College Program Aims To Improve Male Graduation Rate

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Male students enrolled in the Viking Early College will be able to get their high school diploma at the same time earn college credit. Male students enrolled in the Viking Early College will be able to get their high school diploma at the same time earn college credit.
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -

Most students can take college-level courses in high school, although many people think Advance Placement (AP) classes are only for overachieving students.

But that's not true of a new program being launched in Spartanburg School District 7.

Viking Early College will allow students to earn two years of college credits or the equivalent of an associate's degree, while also working towards a high school diploma. However, the program is only available to boys.

"We saw that our male students were not matriculating to college at the rate that our female students are, so we felt this was a need in our school district," said Deputy Superintendent Terry Pruitt.

Viking Early College will open its doors to its first all-male class this fall.

District officials say 20 students will be accepted into the program each year, and those interested will have to go through a lengthy application process.

"I think what you find is most of us who went to college, went to college as a result of the things we were exposed to by our parents, and we are targeting the students who have minimum exposure," said Leonard Starks.

Starks will be overseeing the program as dean. He says the early college wants young men who are willing and capable of doing the work, but for whatever reason may not be able to achieve post-secondary education.

The district consulted with the state and U.S. Department of Education on the legality of the single-gender program.

Male or female-only classes became popular after federal regulations issued in 2006 allowed the use of these programs in school districts.

Across the state there are more than 70 schools that offer some form of single-gender classes.

"We are offering this as a choice, it is not mandatory," Pruitt says, "and we also offer dual-credit for both genders, so the opportunity to earn college credit is available to all students."

Officials hope Viking Early College will lay the groundwork to help more students finish high school with a diploma and degree. If it's successful, the district may consider adding a female-only program.

Eighth grade males currently enrolled in Spartanburg School District 7 can apply for the program or be nominated by a teacher. Applications are available through the middle schools' guidance counselors.

The first class of students will be announced in May.

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