This report describes strategies for expanding and sustaining successful Early College Expansion Partnership (ECEP) programs based on the experiences of three school districts in Texas and Colorado. Results from external evaluations and insights from each of the school districts provide guidance for expanding the ECEP school improvement model to enable more low-income, underserved youth to earn college credits, postsecondary certificates, and associate’s degree while still in high school.

The report also offers considerations for state education policymakers and education leaders.  Thanks to a $15 million five-year federal grant, three school districts in Texas and Colorado implemented ECEP to improve education outcomes for their diverse and low-income students. The Investing in Innovation Fund grant paid for strategic advising for school district leaders, instructional coaches to mentor teachers, leadership coaches to guide principals and counselors or liaisons to manage college partnerships. All three school districts saw a steady increase in college course enrollment, instruction improvements, and thriving partnerships with colleges and sought to expand and sustain the ECEP effort. 

Major Findings & Recommendations

To expand and improve their early college initiatives, the local education leaders must focus on:

  1. Maintaining a coherent instructional focus by having a common definition of and commitment to high-quality teaching strategies, embedding a common instructional framework into everyday classroom habits, aligning competing initiatives, and training school district trainers to ensure ongoing support for teachers and administrators beyond the end of the grant.


  2. Creating structures to manage postsecondary partnerships and support college transitions including a governance body at each ECEP site. ECEP governance teams include senior leaders from the district, principals, and college administrators. The team promotes communication between partners and helps manage dual enrollment processes between high schools and colleges.


  3. Building and leveraging public support for early college by raising community awareness and aspirations for its students to attend college. Raising local funds to sustain college and career-readiness activities and leveraging state policies that recognize and promote the expansion of ECEP also require leaders’ focus.