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Hutto High School Receives Provisional Early College High School Designation from TEA

HUTTO, Texas — Hutto ISD has received a new designation this week which will extend opportunities for students to earn a college degree while also reducing financial barriers.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced Tuesday that Hutto High School has received a Provisional Early College High School (ECHS) designation, paving the way for Hutto ISD to establish its first cohort of dually enrolled students who may earn an associate’s degree through a collaboration with Temple College.

"With our District's first Early College High School, we're removing barriers to post-secondary education," said Brittany Swanson, Associate Superintendent of Instruction & Innovation. "Hutto High School students can now access a future where earning an associate's degree is not only achievable but a reality, setting them on a path for success in their academic and professional pursuits."

The TEA’s Provisional Designation is awarded to a campus for a period of one school year, during which time the campus may operate as an ECHS. Hutto High School’s ECHS will operate under this designation in its first five years of operation while seeking official approval from the TEA.

Dr. Tamica Allen, Assistant Principal and ECHS liaison at Hutto High School, served as project lead for the District in preparing and submitting an application for the TEA designation. Currently in the planning phase, Dr. Allen began the lengthy application process last summer with hopes that Hutto High School could ultimately provide additional opportunities for students to accelerate their learning and graduate from high school prepared for the post-secondary path of their choosing.

"As we continue to pursue new pathways in providing first-rate schools for our secondary students, this designation is just the next step for our comprehensive high school," said Dr. Allen. "With the creation of the Early College High School — a school within Hutto High School — our young Hippos will be introduced to the rigor of college coursework early on, bolstering the likelihood of these students enrolling and succeeding in college."

The first cohort of 25 incoming freshmen to enroll in the ECHS were recently selected as part of an application and lottery process. Prospective students for the first cohort were evaluated for possessing a high level of commitment, academic tenacity and the potential to complete college-level work while in high school. Hutto’s ECHS will also embed social/emotional supportive measures throughout the program to encourage young learners who have the potential to do advanced work.

Admission to the new ECHS program was limited per the provisional designation and allows the inaugural cohort the opportunity to earn up to 60 college credit hours from Temple College while dually enrolled at Hutto High School. Students may also earn an associate’s degree in English over their four-year high school career and have those course credits apply towards a baccalaureate degree at any of Texas’s public universities.

While Hutto High School has historically provided dual credit opportunities through other programs in collaboration with Temple College, the new ECHS designation will allow the District to remove financial barriers for students who otherwise may not have access to post-secondary education. Through the state’s Financial Aid for Swift Transfer (FAST) program, Temple College is able to extend funding for dual credit courses to educationally disadvantaged students and at no cost to the enrollees.

Important to note, existing dual credit courses at Hutto High School will continue to be offered. However, the ECHS does have strict targets, and as such, a lottery drawing process has been established to ensure a consistent approach to enrollment in the program due to limited space.

The ECHS model is a blend of high school and college coursework that gives students the opportunity to earn up to 60 hours, or two years, of tuition-free college credit while earning a high school diploma. This model increases college readiness, provides rigorous instruction and coursework as well as academic and social support.

"This partnership between Hutto High School and Temple College marks an exciting new educational opportunity for our students. By providing access to more dual credit courses, we're empowering them to excel academically while easing the pathway to higher education," Swanson said.

Dr. Allen explained that as the District progresses with the ECHS program, additional options will be explored in order to offer more degree pathways in the coming school years.

The TEA Provisional Designation is designed to provide ample time for the ECHS at Hutto High School to grow its cohorts, improve programming and build stronger partnerships with the local community college. Additionally, the new ECHS is allowed time to demonstrate its ability to fully and appropriately implement its plan while meeting requirements of TEA’s ECHS Blueprint.

"In effect, our goal in pursuing this initiative was to allow our students and their families to save time and money," Dr. Allen said. “By incorporating the potential to earn additional college credit into the existing academic structure of Hutto High School, we can now challenge our students with a rigorous learning environment that will further prepare them to succeed in post-secondary education."

Hutto ISD and Temple College will host a signing day ceremony for the inaugural cohort on May 17, officially welcoming them into the Early College High School program.

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