Empowering Students to Find Their Next Step

How Epic Charter Schools built a culture of empowerment and created the suppport structures so all students could earn college credit in high school.

“We have students so incredibly excited about their future once they see that they can be successful in the TEL coursework. So it really is, I think, changing the trajectory of students and their engagement in wanting to take college coursework.”

Nicole Ellison
Managing Director of
College and Career Readiness
Epic Charter Schools

Location:

Locations in Tulsa, OK, and Oklahoma City, OK, with students throughout the state.

Industry:

K-12

Mission:

Fulfilling every student’s individual potential by personalizing an educational plan that focuses on school and family partnership to achieve optimal student performance.

Total number of students:

52,000

Services used:

Dual Credit, Collegiate Academy

Background

Epic Charter Schools focuses on helping students find their next step after high school graduation. They provide a blended learning environment, pairing online learning with one-on-one support from a certified teacher. Traditionally, students turn to Epic when they are looking for something different than traditional high school.  More than 52,000 students from across Oklahoma attended Epic in 2020.

In order to help their students identify and reach their academic goals, Epic works to provide opportunities for all students to earn college credit as part of their high school career. They have a goal that 90% of their 11th and 12th grade students participate in some area of their Next Step initiative, which includes trade programs and dual credit courses.

The school has established a relationship with every college in the state to provide dual credit resources for students through its next step program. But even with all those options, some students have still lacked the access, resources, or simply the confidence to take courses for college credit.

Objective

The first priority was making sure the entire Epic team understood that there were options for every single student. They built a culture of empowerment where the support structures at every level encouraged students to believe that they could earn college credit. Students, especially those who might have struggled with traditional educational structures, may not believe in 11th or 12th grade that they could be successful in a college course. And getting students to see beyond the current semester was sometimes difficult. The Epic team wanted to change that.

As part of making those opportunities available to every student, the Epic team also realized that cost could be a barrier. Even with low-cost or free dual credit options at colleges all over the state, some of them still required expensive textbooks or fees. Epic needed a resource that was truly affordable for any student.

They also needed flexibility and a simple process. With a diverse set of students came a diverse set of needs. Having students come to a single place to register or to pay a variety of fees before they were able to access the material wasn’t going to work for their students. When enrolling a thousand students into a course, they needed a simple process.

The first priority was making sure the entire epic team understood that there were options for every single student. They built a culture of empowerment where the support structures at every level encouraged students to believe that they could earn college credit. Students, especially those who might have struggled with traditional educational structures, may not believe in 11th or 12th grade that they could be successful in a college course. And getting students to see beyond the current semester was sometimes difficult. The Epic team wanted to change that.

As part of making those opportunities available to every student, the Epic team also realized that cost could be a barrier. Even with low-cost or free dual credit options at colleges all over the state, some of them still required expensive textbooks or fees. Epic needed a resource that was truly affordable for any student.

They also needed flexibility and a simple process. With a diverse set of students came a diverse set of needs. Having students come to a single place to register or to pay a variety of fees before they were able to access the material wasn’t going to work for their students. When enrolling a thousand students into a course, they needed a simple process.

“I feel like every single conversation I have with TEL when it comes to a student situation, they see the student. They are not seeing just a number. They see the real student, their name, and they care about that student. When you work for a really large district, I think sometimes that can get lost. To TEL, they’re real students who TEL wants to see succeed.”

Nicole Ellison
Managing Director of
College and Career Readiness
Epic Charter Schools

Solution

Epic was looking for partners that could provide their students with the same opportunities students received at traditional public schools. Because Epic is a charter school and their model is a little different, they often struggled to find partners that could work with them the same way they worked with brick-and-mortar schools.

When they were introduced to TEL in 2018, they knew they had an exciting opportunity to achieve and expand their goals. With fully online courses and an affordable cost structure, TEL hit the marks that Epic was looking for. The first semester of the partnership, Epic paid for a TEL course for any junior or senior who hadn’t already enrolled in a college credit opportunity, eliminating any cost or access barriers for those students. That option continues today, with Epic covering the cost for a student’s first TEL course.

After several semesters of students taking TEL courses, they were able to expand their partnership to provide another option for Epic students: an associate degree. Working with Oklahoma Christian University, Epic launched Epic Collegiate Academy to provide an associate degree pathway for Epic students. If the student is aiming for a bachelor’s degree, this gives them two years under their belt before they graduate from high school. If the student wants to pursue their professional goals right after graduation, they have an associate degree to build on. More than 80 students are at least a semester into their associate degree and the second cohort will sign up in the fall.

Key Results

%

Completion Rate for Epic Students for Spring 2021

%

Pass Rate for Spring 2021

Students Currently Earning Their Associate Degree

Total Number of Epic Students Who Have Earned College Credit Through TEL

Line graph depicting Epic Charter School's students earning college credit over different semesters. Spring 2019: 64 students. Fall 2019: 130 students. Spring 2020: 209 students. Fall 2020: 400 students. Spring 2021: 526 students. Total: 1329 students.

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