Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dual Enrollment... Put it on your radar

I read this article from Jay Mathews and felt pangs of guilt...

Washington Post: Dual Enrollment Courses -- Up From Obscurity (10/23/07)

My guilt comes from not pressing this issue more in Rochester.

I raised the issue several times with the board, hoping to spark some interest in expanding dual enrollment. But of course, I had no luck. Something's only considered worthwhile by this board if we're already doing it.

Dual enrollment is offered in Rochester, but I've heard from parents who explain that one really needs to jump through hoops for "the privledge" of dual enrollment. In the end, I suspect it's all about the money. The board is willing to put money into purchasing a $60,000 postage machine, but doesn't have enough to expand dual-enrollment opportunities.

There are some good examples locally. Dearborn has very strong ties with Henry Ford Community College. I'm told that many students will graduate from high school already having earned college credits, with some approach enough credits to simultaneously earn an associates degree. Howell School district just build Parker High, which shares space with Livingston Community College. There are some safety issues to address at Parker (with college students and college professors), but pioneers oftentimes face problems and I think it's a great concept and worthy of the startup headaches.

It's amazing to me that Rochester Community Schools doesn't do more in conjunction with Oakland University. We're right in their backyard, and perhaps if we can raise parental and student interest in dual enrollment, it'll pressure the Rochester board into doing the right thing for our kids.

The report referenced in the article can be found here.

Here is the whole Washington Post article in case the link doesn't work:

Dual Enrollment Courses -- Up From Obscurity

By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 23, 2007; 12:12 PM

I have lost track of how many articles and columns I have written about Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate, the college-level high school courses whose rapid growth have been the most beneficial development in secondary education in the last two decades. At the same time, sadly, I have overlooked another college-level offering, the dual enrollment course. These college courses taken by high schoolers have been hard to analyze because they come in so many varieties and because so little research has been done on their effects.

Their status as a neglected cousin of AP and IB is beginning to change, however. National organizations are promoting their expansion, and, for the first time, scholars are assessing their impact. The most interesting research so far came out just last week. The title is pretty dull -- "The Postsecondary Achievement of Participants in Dual Enrollment: An Analysis of Student Outcomes in Two States," -- but the information produced for the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education at the University of Minnesota is exciting.

Dual enrollment courses are usually community college or four-year college courses taken by high school students, either at the college or at their high schools with instructors paid by, or at least supervised by, the college. Looking at the records of 299,685 dual enrollment students
in Florida, the researchers found that taking dual enrollment courses correlated to higher rates of high school graduation, enrollment in two-year and four-year colleges and academic performance in college. Students who took dual enrollment courses while enrolled in Florida high schools had higher college grade point averages and more college credits three years after high school graduation than similar students who had not done dual enrollment.

A review of the records of 2,303 New York students found those in the "College Now" dual enrollment program were more likely to pursue a bachelor's degree and have better college grades their first semester than students of similar backgrounds who did not do dual enrollment.

Despite the evidence that these college courses -- like AP and IB -- give high school students a taste of college rigor that can bring college success, the researchers reported that many students are being denied a chance to take them. The ill-considered limits on high schoolers who want to take college-level courses is also a big problem for AP, and suggests that most of our high school administrators and many state education officials are in dire need of an attitude adjustment.

Report authors Melinda Mechur Karp, Juan Carlos Calcagno, Katherine L. Hughes, Dong Wook Jeong and Thomas R. Bailey are with the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. They found that students are often barred from credit-earning dual enrollment college courses if they do not maintain a certain high school grade point average or cannot pass a placement test.

In Florida, they say, a high school student must have an unweighted 3.0 average in high school and pass a placement test to qualify for dual enrollment, unless the college course is technical or vocational. The colleges in New York City that oversee dual enrollment courses have similar bans on students who do not pass placement tests. Karp told me a federal survey concluded that about 85 percent of colleges with dual enrollment courses restrict access in this way.

There are good reasons for colleges to keep college students -- repeat, college students -- out of their for-credit courses until they are ready. It remains to be seen whether their qualification rules are reasonable. I have heard some complaints about them and plan to look into the issue.

I think it makes much less sense for colleges to keep motivated high school students out of college-level courses. The high schoolers who give these courses a try may indeed fail them, but after interviewing AP and IB students for the last 26 years, I have yet to find anyone who thinks that struggling in a college level course in high school is anything but a beneficial experience. The alternative to an AP or IB course is often a regular course designed in many ways to keep students and parents happy with good grades for little work. That is not the way to prepare students for the foot-high reading lists and two-hour exams they find when they get to college.

For a long time, high schools have routinely prohibited students from taking AP courses unless they have a strong B average or a teacher's recommendation. Research by the College Board, based on the strong PSAT scores of many of those average B and C students, show that many would be capable of doing well in AP courses if the barriers were lifted. School districts in such places as Fairfax County, Va., and Guilford County, N.C., have discovered that if AP courses are opened to all students regardless of their academic records, many newcomers would do well on the AP exams when given enough extra time and encouragement.

Mindful of the similar impediments to getting into dual enrollment courses, the authors of the report urge a loosening of restrictive eligibility requirements. Federal data show that despite recent growth, the number of schools that offer dual enrollment and the number of students who take the courses lag behind AP, which only reaches about 25 percent of high school students. The authors conclude that many more students would benefit from the opportunity if given a chance.

Gillian B. Thorne, a national activist on dual enrollment and director of the Early College Experience Program at the University of Connecticut, endorsed the report's recommendation. She said her program lets high schools decide who takes the college courses. "We set absolutely no threshold," she said.

It would be useful to hear from readers how dual enrollment eligibility works in their high schools. I can't tell how much of a problem the grade point and placement test restrictions are until I have more information. As the report authors say, there is very little useful data. Their research is a good start, but we have a long way to go.


Anonymous said...

Rocester has had this in a slightly different form in the past.

During the mid 90s I attended OCC and OU with a few (very few) Rochester High Junior and Senior students. They attended the 6 to 10 pm four (4) credit classes. These were tough for college students and I was amazed at how hard these high school kids worked.

I want to know what we do now and I have some proposals for this district regarding exactly this topic.

So far the administrators, superintendant, and board members I have talked to like some of my concepts.

It's all AP and even more rigorous. However since this site and other blogs paint me as "watered down" I'm not putting my ideas down here.

I will state that they are timely and a bonus for Rochester, Oakland County, and Michigan.

When I make the formal presentation to the board I hope thay grab it and run with NO pushing required.

I have made my own network contacts with Oakland University Engineering professors and I will be making early inquiry toward several Rochester Hills and other Automation Alley buisnesses.

This concept will sell itself and it will pull many more kids into advanced science.

I promise that!

Clay Hufnagel said...

As an administrator in two small, rural districts in Northern Michigan, I viewed Dual Enrollment as a valuable educational opportunity for our students, whose curricular choices were by necessity limited because of our size. As long as students met the requirements set by the state for eligibility ((MEAP proficiency) and as long as the courses they wished to take met state requirements (academic courses not offered by the school), we strongly encouraged students to consider DE courses at the local community or four-year college. (In advance, according to the regulations, they had to indicate whether they were taking the courses for both high school and college credit or just for college credit.)

We met tremendous resistance -- from teachers, who, whether in private conversations or in classroom discussion or in conversations with parents who were friends and/or relatives, (at the instigation of the of the MEA, I believe) almost universally discouraged kids. They also discouraged kids from taking course work at the area Career Tech Center (sponsored by a neighboring district) and from being involved in Less Than Class Size vocational experiences, which we worked very hard to establish to give our kids more educational opportunities. Why the discouragement?

Fear of loss of jobs. In other words, the more contact hours students spent out of the district, the fewer students were in the high school building to be taught. Their concern was that at a certain point that might cost a job or two.

As a School of Choice school, our reaction was to tout our development and fostering of such educational opportunities in the media, so that our enrollment actually held rather steady or even grew -- at the expense of neighboring districts. This, of course, did not assuage the feelings of the MEA, as they were all part of the same Uniserv region, and so many of the teachers in the area districts were either related or friends. My position was that, in addition to those opportunies being good for students, 5/7th of an FTE was better than 0/0 of an FTE. And it worked for us.

But, in short, the educational interests and needs of students were subverted by the bunker mentality of the MEA. (By the way, I believe that school districts are still required by law to inform all student families of Dual Enrollment possibilities early in their high school career.)

Administration can be guilty of dissuading students in ways other than making them jump through hooops. One superintendent I am aware of subtly implied to the entire community that DE was only for special students, when at a public meeting he touted DE as the capstone of the district's Gifted and Talented program, not suited for everyone. (By the way, he was a former Uniserv director!)

In short, personal experience is that the union is the greatest obstacle to Dual Enrollment. It could impact jobs.

Anonymous said...

Good insight Clay. I will remember the "jobs" aspect as I press forward.

However; I intend to let the teachers believe that this is their program both in Rochester schools and at OU and OCC nearby.

It could reduce class size too down to the contracted levels and therefore no reduction in force would ever be a problem.

Further; some universities look at AP credit and then strong-arm the student into taking the material over again.

Here with DE the university credit is earned and is transferrable without the jaundiced eye.

Again the ideas I want to put forth will need lab space that only a university can provide right now.

I hope to get local high tech to help at one of our High Schools for a pilot.

If the program (bait) is nice enough, somebody high up will claim the idea for themselves and the program will go forward.

I will just be one of the little people that help make it go.

Mike Reno said...

Here's an interesting blog that addresses dual enrollment, or as it's called on the blog, "concurrent enrollment":

Loads of info...

Mike Reno said...

I deleted the post above because it had nothing to do with the topic.

It contained interesting, but debatable points on the 2007 Rochester School board election, but also contained unfounded inuendo that I don't feel obligated to keep on my blog.

If I had your email, Marty, I'd respond directly to you.

Anonymous said...

I agree with pulling for the topic reasons.

I do want to discuss the DE and my AP proposal. The AP discussion will happen after I hear back from several local high tech suppliers that are an essential part of the package.

The buisnesses have hardware to invest and the two schools have labs until we can get our own going. This is the DE side of this new topic.

I am not prepared to say what it is but it is not automotive or robots.

I think you do have my email. It has not changed. I strongly dissagree with the unfounded inuendo statement. I am certianly not alone out here in my beliefs.