Early College and Career Options (ECCO) High School
Our school is called Early College and Career Options (ECCO) High School and we are fortunately located on the beautiful Lane Community College campus, working in conjunction with the college’s High School Connections department. Our partnership runs deep as our high school program leads to a fully funded sponsorship that pays for our student’s first 36 college credits in programs at LCC.
In alignment with our Governor’s 40-40-20 Initiative, our school offers highly personalized instruction focusing on college and career readiness. Small class sizes and courses focused on highly relevant and engaging topics are essential focuses that allow us to connect with students on a human level.
We are on a first-name basis with our students. As a matter of fact, one student claimed that after a full six months of attending ECCO that they never learned our principle’s last name – they simply know him as Brad.
The Problem in Eugene School District 4j (and Beyond)
Our school district, Eugene School District 4j, presently graduates 64% of our students. This means that we are graduating fewer than two out of every three young adults in our community.
50% of our district’s students receive free-and-reduced lunch support which means that a full half, or one-out-of-every-two families in our community, struggle with poverty.
Of all students to take the Advanced Placement test in Computer Science in Oregon last year, only 12% were female.
For the class of 2012, Oregon’s on-time graduation rate was second-lowest among the states, behind Nevada.
And finally, to get a sense of how things are going on the other side of the country, public schools in Washington, D.C. spent $29,349 per pupil in the 2010-2011 school year, according data from the National Center for Education Statistics, but in 2013, 83 percent of the eighth graders in these schools were not “proficient” in reading and 81 percent were not “proficient” in math.
Listing to Students to Find Meaningful Solutions
ECCO is an “Early College” program for students age 16-20 who find their way back into the education system through our innovative and highly attractive program offerings. Our students are resilient young people who have trouble dealing with one-size-fits all standardized schools. We exist to prove that public education is not beyond saving. We are finding incredible new ways to engage students by reaching beyond the doors of district buildings and education think tanks – we are reach out to local individuals, leaders, entrepreneurs and anyone who has a willingness to find ways to to raise graduation rates and the relevance of the education our students receive.
Many of our students express anxiety and frustration linked to huge class sizes and an inability for teachers to genuinely and meaningfully connect within the traditional public school model. Students require quality one-on-one contact, feedback and guidance to learn how to be problem solvers and team players. Students require teamwork opportunities and social interaction to flourish and thrive. This is a cornerstone focus within the ranks of our teachers and support staff.
Success Thus Far:
After one year with these ideals at the forefront of our efforts our students are already enjoying incredible personal and academic success. ECCO students who moved into college courses after successfully completing our early college program posted a remarkable 96% course completion and passing rate with a combined 3.28 GPA in the 2013/2014 school year. These early statistics are unprecedented given that many ECCO students come to us either at-risk of dropping out or already out of the system. Thus far, 87% of the students who come to us stay with us. That is largely because of our commitment to helping them find their purpose and real-world opportunities to sustain their new-found motivation.
We work with students who show emotional readiness and a true commitment to getting back on their feet and rising to the challenges our staff and community partners manifest for them. We create individualized plans for their unique but often related paths of study based on their stated interests and desires. Our students want to succeed and strive for happiness and contentment. We ask them what they’d like their lives to look like at 25-years-old and find ways to show them that there are opportunities to explore their unique visions with a focus on the larger picture and how they fit into the wider human community.
Exploring Computer Science – Coming This Fall
Exploring Computer Science is a cutting edge program based on curriculum authored and developed by Professor Joanna Goode at the University of Oregon. Exploring Computer Science is designed to introduce students to the breadth of the field of computer science through an exploration of engaging and accessible topics. Rather than focusing the entire course on learning particular software tools or programming languages, the course is designed to focus on the conceptual ideas of computing and help students understand why certain tools or languages might be utilized to solve particular problems. The goal of Exploring Computer Science is to develop in students the computational practices of algorithm development, problem solving and programming within the context of problems that are relevant to the lives of today’s students. Students will also be introduced to topics such as interface design, limits of computers, technology infrastructure and societal and ethical issues.
This course was originally developed for students in the Los Angeles Unified School District in an effort to broaden participation in computing district-wide, particularly for girls and students of color. After initial success in Los Angeles, several other districts and states have formally developed school-district-university partnerships to bring Exploring Computer Science course to their local high schools. Reaching historically underrepresented students continues to be a major emphasis of this course.
We focus on providing access to more college level programs than traditional high schools and back our commitment by forging brilliant partnerships with some of the most impressive companies, both local and global, that allow our students to fully engage in self-selected career pathways and advanced opportunities.
Game-changing Projects with Global Reach
In order to capture the attention of students and community members alike we must design a program that the vast majority of the local population can take seriously – the proposition that so-called at-risk students can rise to challenges provided by dedicated community members, usually of means in one way or another, if given relevant missies and reasons for focused and intentional education.
This year, ECCO High School and our partners are pleased to announce the following student project(s):
Mission – to design and produce (based on prototype, donated chassis and power train) an electric vehicle tailored to the needs of human communities in third world and developing nations. Arcimoto, our partner EV company, has agreed to provide time and direct mentorship to a crew of students (age 16-20) and guide them through the process of creating a prototype vehicle as staff at ECCO High School begin their second year in existence and first year with the Exploring Computer Science curriculum.
A most exciting development happened in early July when ECS became aware of AquaDrop, a state-of-the-art water filtration system that can be easily incorporated into an Arcimoto prototype design, thus enabling the vehicle in at least one more fundamental way to bring assistance to the many regions of the world that desperately require aid in the realm of access to drinkable water and stable dwellings.
After speaking with Arcimoto leaders on Thursday, July 10th, they enthusiastically agree that incorporating the AquaDrop technology from the beginning and having them on-board as direct mentors and teachers with a common goal from a different angle is a brilliant move. It makes the Arcimoto team much more comfortable knowing that another major partner is jumping into the fray and sharing in the adventure.
Arcimoto and AquaDrop will guide our students through the process of developing a quality vehicle with auxiliary trailers or components needed to incorporate additional solar, veggie-oil, or alternative power sources to provide additional power to the battery array with room to spare by the end for $100,000. The goal is to design a vehicle that can be easily replicated, produced and sold for $10,000 or less. We want to lead our students to success in a highly visible way utilizing all support, advice and guidance offered from partners, sponsors and community members.
We want our community to watch our students work with this technology with the same interest and fervor as citizens watched the Apollo astronauts in their early forays into space. It is time to bring our attention back to earth (with exception to SpaceX, of course) for a while to deal with the greatest threats facing humanity in a very long time. We believe that there are four basic areas essential to human happiness and thriving:
1. Food, water & clean air
3. Community & education
4. Transportation & Travel
The EV program explores ways to improve transportation, travel access, water purification and environmental pursuits, but we haven’t yet discussed the other side of sustainability – food production, organic food practices, natural preservation techniques, sustainable ecology, shelter design and construction, and all other essential aspects of a healthy community with a strong emphasis on education and youth empowerment. These will all be incorporated into the Exploring Computer Science experience and we are excited to begin this fall.
This program is about teachers and community leaders connecting students to the wider community and breaking free of one-size-fits-all 20th century methodologies that no longer work. We need this project to be transformative, meaningful, high-minded, authentic and deeply meaningful for our students and communities. That is why we will soon announce the details of our program and the exciting (and mind-bending) opportunities that will soon become rarity for 15-20 students.
From Joanna Goode’s paper submitted to the Future Directions in Computing Education Summit (2014):
As we all know, our country is experiencing a crisis in education and a shortage of CS professionals. The crisis in CS education maps onto much of the education crisis in many facets of the larger world of education, particularly the fields of math and science and engineering. Debates over what makes effective teaching, how to measure it, how to assess student learning, how to eliminate the achievement gap all sit at the center of our research agenda for computer science. Our work of democratizing computer science knowledge addresses the entire array of factors that deny a quality education to too many of our nation’s students.
The most important “broader implications” for our work are for democratizing knowledge critical for 21st century citizens. We believe that making this subject accessible for all students, especially those who have been traditionally underrepresented in the field, can have significant consequences in terms of students’ current and future learning across multiple domains. This is true as all professions and fields are now being transformed by computer science. For students who have this knowledge, more doors of opportunity will be open to them. And, the world desperately needs diverse perspectives to be voiced and at the design tables.