Lead Higher Initiative

Spartanburg School District Two Selected for First Cohort

Spartanburg School District Two was recently accepted into the Lead Higher Initiative, a national effort spearheaded by the non-profit Equal Opportunity Schools, with support from the White House's My Brother's Keeper Alliance, the US Department of Education, International Baccalaureate and the College Board. Lead Higher is also backed by contributions from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Tableau, and Google.

As a member of the first Lead Higher cohort, Spartanburg Two will receive match-funded technical assistance from Equal Opportunity Schools to close its participation and success gaps in AP, IB or dual credit courses by fall 2017.

Superintendent Scott Mercer says, "While we have been very pleased with the increasing number of our students earning college credit, this partnership provides an exciting avenue to dramatically move those numbers higher, in concert with this stated goal of our Board of Trustees."

Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Dr. Angela Hinton continues, "We are excited to be a part of this national initiative that will result in more of our students earning dual credits and being better prepared for college and careers. The Lead Higher initiative dovetails with the work our district has already been doing to create more dual credit opportunities for all students, including our collaboration with Spartanburg Community College to create Spartanburg County Early College High School and with USC Upstate to establish Scholars Academy. Students from all 7 Spartanburg districts are served in these two programs and earn 2 years of college credit while simultaneously earning high school diplomas. Through efforts like these and other efforts, such as offering more dual credit on site at our 2 high schools, Boiling Springs and Chesnee, and the addition of Graduation Interventionists, our graduation rate has increased to 87.8%. Last year, our students earned 2164 dual credits; 34.1% of our seniors took at least one college-level course prior to graduating. We can't wait to see the positive impact the Lead Higher initiative will have on our students' success."

Lead Higher seeks to enable secondary schools to fully reflect their racial and economic diversity at the highest academic levels in K-12 education and to elevate the national conversation about low-income students and students of color beyond achieving proficiency to a focus on academic excellence. To accomplish these goals, Lead Higher and its school partners will, over the next three years, transition 100,000 low-income students and students-of-color into a successful Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or dual credit experience and in so doing enable 600 high schools to represent their student diversity in those courses.

Equal Opportunity Schools has partnered with more than 250 high schools across the nation to ensure nearly 20,000 new students of every background have the chance to succeed in these rigorous courses. "By building on their best academic programs and the systems already in place, selected schools will implement what are among the highest impact strategies for boosting college readiness while closing the achievement gap," said EOS founder & CEO, Reid Saaris. Substantial research indicates students receive a number of benefits and dramatically boost their chances of completing college if successful in just one AP, IB or dual credit course in high school.

Out of several hundred schools considered for Lead Higher, Spartanburg District Two's schools are among the 117 selected for participation next year. Through a year-long partnership, EOS will support schools by providing field-leading data analysis to measure student- and school-specific causes of participation gaps, develop a comprehensive strategy for addressing those causes, and by Fall 2017 transition all of the historically underrepresented students who have been identified as being overlooked for AP/IB/dual credit into one of these course opportunities. Once there, students will benefit from plans EOS and the schools develop to ensure their success.

Pictured: Spartanburg County Early College High School students