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Early College High School


The California Department of Education partners with the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office to support the Early College High School (ECHS) Initiative of the Foundation for California Community Colleges.

ECHS are small, autonomous schools that blend high school and college into a coherent educational program. The basic elements of ECHS include:
ECHS are designed for students who are underrepresented in postsecondary education, including: students who have not had access to the academic preparation needed to meet college readiness standards, students for whom the cost of college is prohibitive, students of color, first generation college-goers, and English learners. ECHS serve the developmental and intellectual needs of young people. The schools remove major barriers to postsecondary access and success. Students are rewarded for hard work by the opportunity to accelerate and to earn two years of college credit without charge. The physical transition between high school and college is eliminated, and learning takes place in a personalized environment where rigorous work is demanded and supported.

The ECHS Initiative is sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Current legislation, Senate Bill 1316 (Hancock) of 2012, exempts an Early College High School (ECHS) and a Middle College High School (MCHS) from the 240-minute school day requirement. The legislation provides that a day of attendance for an ECHS or MCHS student is 180 minutes if the student is a special part-time student enrolled in a community college under specified provisions, or the student is enrolled in grades 11 or 12 and is also enrolled part-time in classes at California State University or University of California campuses.

Also, Senate Bill 379 (Hancock) of 2013 reduces the minimum instructional time requirements for Charter Schools that operate as Early College High Schools and Middle College High Schools.

Early College agencies that plan to apply for a County-District-School (CDS) code should review the Definition of a School Web page to ensure that agency meets the definition of a school. If the agency does meet the definition of a school, the agency may apply for a CDS code. Early College High Schools follow the same process as traditional schools for the application for a CDS code (DOC). Applicants should indicate that their school is an Early College High School either in the school name on the application, or in the board minutes that accompany the application. This notation is the only way the California Department of Education will know that the school is an Early College High School. For assistance in applying for a CDS code, please contact the CDS Administrator at cdsadmin@cde.ca.gov or by phone at 916-327-4014.

Charter Schools that operate as Early College agencies and plan to apply for a County-District-School (CDS) code should also review the Definition of a School Web page to ensure the agency meets the definition of a school. If it does meet the definition of a school, the agency may apply for a CDS code. Charter Schools that operate as Early College High Schools follow the same process as other charter schools for the application for a CDS code (DOC). Charter schools should indicate that their school is an Early College High School either in the school name on the application for a charter school number, or in the board minutes that accompany their charter school numbering submission package. This notation is the only way the California Department of Education will know that the school is an Early College High School.
For assistance with applying for a Charter School Number, please contact the Charter School Division at Charters@cde.ca.gov or by phone at 916-322-6029.

The Foundation for California Community Colleges External link opens in new window or tab. provides a descriptive assessment of ECHS.
For additional information on this topic, please visit the National Early College High School Initiative. External link opens in new window or tab.

The California Department of Education partners with the Chancellor's Office for the California Community Colleges to support the Early College High School (ECHS) Initiative of the Foundation for California Community Colleges.

Early College High Schools are small, autonomous schools that blend high school and college into a coherent educational program:

Early College High Schools are designed for young people who are underrepresented in postsecondary education, including: students who have not had access to the academic preparation needed to meet college readiness standards, students for whom the cost of college is prohibitive, students of color, first generation college-goers, and English language learners.

Early College High Schools serve the developmental and intellectual needs of young people. The schools remove major barriers to postsecondary access and success. Students are rewarded for hard work by the opportunity to accelerate and to earn two years of college credit without charge. The physical transition between high school and college is eliminated, and learning takes place in a personalized environment where rigorous work is demanded and supported.

The Early College High School Initiative is sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

For additional information on the California ECHS Initiative, please visit the Foundation for California Community Colleges' (FCCC) Early College High School Initiative. External link opens in new window or tab.

For additional information on this topic, visit the National Early College High School Initiative. External link opens in new window or tab.

Questions: Carolyn Hamilton | chamilton@cde.ca.gov | 916-323-5765 
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