Sunday, December 5, 2010

Do Dual Enrollment Classes Live Up To Their Promise to Replicate College on High School Campuses?

When students enroll in dual enrollment courses, they enter a social contract that both tacitly and explicitly states they will complete college-level course work in a high school setting. Similarly, school districts and colleges enter a contractual agreement, promising students and their parents that in every important way, the student will experience college while enrolled in and physically attending high school. The contract benefits colleges because students become economically vested in the college offering the dual-enrollment courses, virtually ensuring the student will then enroll in that college or risk losing the dual-enrollment credits as well as the cost of those courses.

This all sounds fantastic, and in many places works well when the courses offered in high school are taught by individuals whose credentials would also allow them to teach college. Sadly, students, their parents, and the pubic may be purchasing the equivalent of educational swmap land when they enroll in dual-enrollment courses. High school isn't college, nor should college be high school. The environments alone just feel different because they are different.

However, the real problems arise when those individuals who teach dual-enrollment courses would never be hired to teach in the colleges that approved them for dual-enrollment employment in the first place. This is because many high school teachers lack advanced degrees required for college instructors. Why, then, did my local paper publish a story headlined "Funds raised for dual--enrollment program" November 20, 2010, in which the writer, John O'Connell, makes this false claim: Dual enrollment courses are "offered by high school teachers with advanced degrees that qualify them to teach at the collegiate level"?

I know for a fact that some dual-enrollment courses in my district are being taught by teachers without advanced degrees, either in education or in a specific subject.  Nor are these teachers close to earning an advanced degree that would qualify them to teach the course. Our neighbor state to the south mandates DE teachers have an MA in the specific course in which they teach.

"Parents think they're students are getting a real college experience from dual-enrollment classes, and they're just not," Stan Olson, the former superintendent of the Boise school district, told me during a conversation in October.

Proponents of DE classes contend that students enrolled in the classes are more likely to go on to college. I've seen the research, but I counter that this only makes sense since the DE students, by being enrolled in the classes, have college on their radar anyway. It's simply a fallicious cause/effect argument. I wonder how many students who have taken many DE classes struggle in the real college setting, not realizing the vast difference of campus life.
When the local paper published the article I referenced, I suggested to a building-level administrator that the district needs to insist on the printing of a correction since the claim is a bold faced lie. I have not seen a correction yet. To ensure all students and pareents know exactly who is teaching DE courses, I suggest that just as college professors include their credentials on the syllabus students receive, dual-enrollment teachers should be required to inform students and parents of their specific credentials. Until then caveat emptor, parents and students.