The Foothill College Middle College is an alternative education plan for juniors and seniors. The Foothill Middle College began in 1993 in collaboration with the Palo Alto Unified School District, Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District (MVLA) and Foothill College itself. Although the first Middle College nationally was established only 40 years ago, the program has become nationally recognized and is popular in the Bay Area.
According to the MVLA school district website, the Middle College program targets “bright, college-bound students who may not be performing up to their full potential, or students who are ready for a change from the traditional high school environment.” Assistant Principal Tom Jacoubowsky works in association with the MVLA school district and Foothill College to provide students with information on the Middle College program. Jacoubowsky believes that any student with academic potential could find the Middle College program attractive. “It’s for kids who are academically strong. It’s not for students who have had problems doing the academic work at Gunn,” Jacoubowsky said. “We’ve had a range of students who in a sense I would say have underachieved and have struggled and have gone on to Middle College. We’ve had students who are like 4.0 [GPA] students who just want a different experience.”
The Middle College program offers four different opportunities for students. The first opportunity lets students complete high school graduation requirements faster by taking concurrent high school and college courses. The system provides students with “double-credits” for their high school classes. For example, if a student takes a five-unit Chinese class in one quarter then he earns a year’s worth of high school credits in the Chinese course in just a 12-week span. While earning a year’s worth of credits in less time may sound appealing, each 12-week course covers a year’s worth of curriculum. Class curriculums are expedited, and Middle College students are expected to learn the material at a much faster rate if they hope to attain the credits.
Middle College also offers an environment that allows students to choose their own education. Students can choose the college classes that they want to take as long as they sign the Middle College Student Agreement. To help students adapt to the collegiate system, all students design their own schedule by choosing college courses from the Foothill College catalog. A Middle College student usually takes two hour-long college courses in the morning from 9 a.m. to noon, and then their core high school classes from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Participating in sports and choosing college courses are both left for the student to decide. The only courses that cannot be decided by the students are the required high school classes.
The third opportunity the Middle College plan offers is a chance for the student to explore another range of electives that differ from high school electives. Middle College offers 90 different departments for students to explore. While Gunn and MVLA both offer a plethora of electives, Foothill College offers branches of science (anthropology, sociology, kinesiology) that are not offered at these other two high schools. The diverse courses that Middle College students can choose from is intended to help them choose a possible major before they enter college.
The final opportunity that Middle College offers to prospective students is the smaller class size. Also, while students take different college courses every 12 weeks, or a quarter, all 70 Middle College students study and work together in a large classroom setting for an entire semester, taking the same courses. Since students work together in such a large setting, every student gets to know each other and work together to succeed.
With smaller class sizes, a greater variety of classes and an opportunity to complete high school graduation requirements faster, Middle College is certainly a viable option for prospective high school juniors and seniors.