Whale Branch High gaining positive momentum

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Beaufort County School District officials said that an innovative academic approach at Whale Branch Early College High School has students more engaged and more likely to pursue additional studies after graduating.
A key element is a partnership with the Technical College of the Lowcountry that offers Whale Branch students the opportunity to earn both a high school diploma and up to two years of college credit simultaneously — and at no cost to students.
“We anticipated that this approach would show positive results,” Superintendent Valerie Truesdale told the Beaufort County Board of Education tonight.  “What we didn’t anticipate was that those positive results would happen so quickly.”
Sean Alford, Director of Instructional Services for the district, told board members that when Whale Branch High opened in fall 2010, 13 students qualified to take two or more college-level courses through the school’s partnership with TCL.  That number has climbed rapidly since then, and when the school began its second year of operation last month, 76 students qualified.
Through summer 2011, Alford said, Whale Branch students had attempted 646 credit hours of college-level work and successfully completed 510 credit hours – nearly an 80 percent passing rate.  And this fall, more than 40 percent of the school’s 76 qualifying students are currently enrolled in three or more college-level courses.
Some college-level courses are offered on site at the high school, and students also have the option of taking courses at the TCL campus.  Among the most popular college courses this semester are Intro to College Algebra, College Algebra, Western Civilization, English Composition I and Introduction to Computers.
Passing college courses while still in high school qualifies students not only to graduate from high school, but also to graduate from the technical college with an Associate’s Degree.  That represents a two-year head-start as they begin work toward a Bachelor’s degree at a university or college or enter the workforce.