Rock University High School’s enrollment is growing as more students seek to get a head start on college.
In partnership with and located on the campus of Blackhawk Technical College, the school gives students the opportunity to earn college credits with the ultimate goal of having them graduate with an associate degree.
The public charter school is set up similar to a college with Monday, Wednesday and Friday and Tuesday and Thursday classes with embedded breaks in the day for study. In addition to gaining college credits through either advanced placement or dual-credit classes, students learn the routine and habits of college life. They can take night classes at BTC or participate in activities on campus.
“It’s a solution to help students, especially those who are underserved and who are first-generation college students who might have barriers, financial or otherwise,” Principal Kolleen Onsrud said. “It’s designed to provide all support needed for the first two years so when students are juniors they are confident and can advocate for themselves.”
The students can either enter the workforce after obtaining their associate degree or apply it toward additional education.
“Our goal is for students to finish what they started at BTC. Some will transfer to the UW System or other colleges and universities,” Dean of Students Angela Kerr said.
Kerr predicts there will be at least 80 students enrolled this fall. The school is open to any student in Wisconsin at the BTC Central Campus at 6004 S. County G on the northwest side of the campus in its lower level.
“Over 30% of our population is open enrolled into the school, with lots of students from Beloit and Milton, and a few Evansville and Edgerton students,” Kerr said.
Kerr said Beloit students can take a bus which picks up at the Eclipse Center in Beloit as well as the Beloit Janesville Express operated by Beloit Transit and the Janesville Transit System.
Because students from other districts who attend are open enrolled into the Janesville School District, they can participate in athletics or other extracurricular clubs through their home high school, either Craig or Parker, if they are interested.
The soft deadline for enrollment for Rock University High School is July, or Aug. 14 at the latest. For more information people can visit its website at rockuniversity .janesville.k12.wi.us.
Rock University High School opened in 2014 at the UW-Rock County campus and in 2016 it moved to the BTC campus. As an instrumentality charter school, it’s a public school authorized by the Janesville School District. It is one of four charter schools within the Janesville School District.
Kerr said it opened in 2014 with a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for 10th through 12th grades and three years ago it applied for another grant to expand. Thanks to the recent grant, it was able to add the ninth grade and the partnership with BTC.
“We are in year three of a five-year expansion grant,” Kerr said.
While the school usually has around 65 to 70 students, the hope is to reach a maximum capacity of 140 to 160 students in the next two years. Currently, the school has four full-time teachers and a total staff of eight. With a student to teacher ratio of 18:1 or less, students receive lots of individual attention.
Kerr said it’s a great solution for students who want to go to college but don’t think they can afford it or students who want to get a bachelor’s degree two years after high school. She predicts the concept known as “middle college,” a high school on a college campus will become more popular in the future.
Kerr said the school attracts both driven students and those struggling, however, she has noticed that once in “middle college” students take on a new maturity.
“They know they are on a college campus. They want to better themselves and have goals,” she said.
On May 25, Rock University High School was recognized as a Level 3 Advanced Placement Pacesetter School for the 2019-20 school year in May 2021 by the Wisconsin Advanced Placement Advisory Council (WAPAC).
WAPAC is comprised of Wisconsin secondary and collegiate educators dedicated to expanding access to AP coursework and rigorous learning for all students.
As a Pacesetter Level 3 School, more than 10% of Rock University High School students took AP exams and more than 60% of those test-takers received a score of three or higher on a five-point scale to receive AP credit. Students who score three or higher on an AP exam typically receive transferable course credit, advanced standing, or both from most colleges, universities and technical colleges.
Rock University High School is expanding its AP Course offerings for 2020-21 to include AP seminar, AP research, AP environmental science, AP psychology and AP statistics.
Kerr noted the Janesville School District has three other public charter schools: Arise Virtual Academy; TAGOS Leadership Academy, with project-based learning for grades 7-12; and Rock River Charter School, a 9-12 grade school to help students emotionally, socially and academically.