Dual enrollment’s dark side

“Dual enrollment” students earn college credits in high school, but there’s no guarantee they’ve done college work, writes a university math professor. One of his students earned two years of college credit by the age of 18, but can’t solve math problems. Her “learning method” is guessing on multiple-choice tests. 

In Oregon, taking college courses boosts high school students’ confidence — and the odds they’ll enroll in college. But is their confidence justified?

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  1. Florida resident says:

    What the heck ! My wife and I, we always considered “dual enrollment” for our kids as source of knowledge, not as future credit for a University.
    “Combinatorics and graph theory”, “Formal languages and automata theory” were not in the MIT program (were eventually our son went), but helped to be better educated.

  2. I’ve never understood why kids not even performing at the HS level should be in dual enrollment at all, which used to be reserved for those top students who had finished even the HS APs. My older sons had friends who had taken AP Calc BC as juniors, then went to the flagship state U or a competitive private U to take differential equations as seniors, but that’s an entirely different situation.

    • Dual Credit for a high school graduate who cannot solve math problems…this sounds like fraud to me, and the university which was stupid enough to issue her the dual credit.


    • Stacy in NJ says:

      This story is really about lousy controls at some TX community colleges. Dual enroll in NJ is a huge success, but to qualify for the Jersey program (called Challenger) students must either 1) score 520 on both math and English portion of the SAT or 2) pass the Accuplacer entrance exam without placing into remedial courses. It’s a simple and effective standard. Most of the dual enrolled kids – many of them homeschoolers – do better at the community college level than those enrolling post high school graduation.

      • That sounds somewhat like MN’s PSEO (post secondary enrollment options), which allows qualified kids to take classes at the local college of their choice, and their school district pays the bill. It’s mostly for juniors and seniors, but I’ve heard of kids who went right to CC from MS and did very well. The criteria were fairly flexible, although good grades in challenging courses, test scores (if avail) and a decent reason were expected when my son took his German under that program. It was definitely NOT a program for under-perfoming or even average students – which was probably why it worked so well.

    • Genevieve says:

      In my area, a lot of community colleges will offer dual credit for vocational/technical classes.

      For example, my district offers a horticulture/animal husbandry class. It also includes some FFA activities. If you complete the whole program, the local community college will give you almost a year of college credit. I believe that there are also options of just receiving the horticulture credit if you don’t do the whole program.

      In the smaller towns, the community colleges have created regional academies that serve 11th and 12th graders from several districts. They offer dual credit for programs like nurses aid, auto mechanics, etc.

  3. There’s already a “dual-enrollment” system out there.  It’s called Advanced Placement, and doesn’t suffer from issues like students achieving a 4 on the Calculus BC or even AB test also getting a 380 on the SAT math.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      AP is really difficult for homeschoolers to access. They must apply to the AP board and submit syllabus prior to allowing the student to take the exam at a proxy school – so dual enroll is incredibly helpful to homeschoolers. Many in Jersey prep for the accuplacer exam then take cc classes for jr. and sr. year.

      • Stacy in NJ says:

        Also, EP, the content of an AP level course and a 100 level college course have never been comparable – at least with regards to English. The English AP course is literature heavy while most college 100 level English courses are literature light with heavy emphasis on composition. Many college graduates – majoring in something other than English – will never encounter the literature an AP English student does.

        • Perhaps that is true of the AP English Lit exam but it was not true of the AP English Language exam, when my daughter took it as a sophomore. She was not taking any AP English course, registered at the last minute, had read no specific books, did no studying whatsoever and passed with a 4. Perhaps that has changed since then (took it in 01 and the class in 02 and 03)

    • Florida resident says:

      Sure, “dual enrollment” comes after the kid exhausted the “AP” courses.

      For no reason, here it is in English, from George Reavey’s book (New York, 1959).

      In the experience of great poets
      Some traits proclaim such naturalness
      That, having found them, we can’t do more
      Than end by being completely numb.

      Assured of kinship with all things
      And with the future closely knit,
      We can’t but fall — a heresy! —
      To unbelievable simplicity.

      But to be spared we can’t expect
      If we do not conceal it closely.
      Men need it more than anything,
      But complex things are easier for them …
      Most respectful greetings to Ms. Jacobs from your truly.

  4. Dennis Ashendorf says:

    There are colleges and college courses for the top 10-15% of academic achievement students and then there are the others. We pretend that all “college courses” are “college courses.” They’re not.

    This is the main reason that Jay Mathews’ Challenge Index for the Washington Post doesn’t give credit for “college classes.”

    Few want to admit the truth: AP is actually harder than the majority of college classes, but a good college class makes AP look weak. This is a variation on Murray’s themes in “Real Education.” Educators cannot deal with the truth. We prefer romanticism.

    • It’s also true at the HS level; some “HS” courses aren’t really HS. That explains the very poor scores on Montgomery County’s (MD) countywide tests. I’m betting that in those schools where the coursework was really as described in the countywide HS course listings, most kids did fine, but, in many schools, the actual coursework was far below that level- because most kids weren’t prepared for HS work. It was that way when my kids attended school there. The edworld is firmly attached to the fantasy that all kids are equal in ability and motivation and can therefore learn the same material, in the same amount of time, in the same classroom; all it takes is some fairy dust and a bit of powdered unicorn horn.

      • First of all, ‘college’ algebra is a joke…

        Algebra by definition is a class which most of us here took and passed when we were in grades 8 or 9 of our public school years.

        Math classes which are college level are as follows:

        Formal/Symbolic Logic/Digital Logic
        Finite Math
        Pre-Calculus/Business Calculus/Applied Calculus/Calculus
        Linear/Abstract Algebra
        Differential Equations (inc. partial)
        Numerical Analysis/Theory

        The stuff this student took in no way, shape, or form qualifies as college level math, and given her lack of ability to pass pre-calc, she’ll never make it through calculus.


        • Exactly. One of the regulars on this site said that if you don’t pass the MoCo (district I mentioned above) algebra 1 test with a very high score and no preparation, in 7th-8th grade, you won’t be college ready at the end of HS (real college work). I’d say the same applies to the writing and government tests. They’re not HS-level, they’re 8th-grade level.

  5. Also, at least when I was growing up in Montgomery County, community college courses were NOT an approach used by top students. AP English at my high school was light years ahead of any English course offered at CC, because the type of kids who went to CC were NEVER going to be able to pass true AP English. At the time, the county extensively tracked English classes, so there was actually a clear difference between AP and Honors, and between Honors and the next level down, an so on.

    The AP classes at my school had us reading a book a week (Well, Crime and Punishment may have taken 2) and writing a paper a week. It was actually MORE INTENSE than first year humanities at the University of Chicago, to the point where college felt relaxing after a year with Dr. Smith. (Nearly 100% of Dr. Smith’s students earned 5s on the exam with very little effort, because compared to her, the AP exam was a piece of cake!)

    The problem is that the value of AP or College classes is almost entirely dependent on the teacher. Dr. Smith got higher quality students because everyone knew how hard her class was, and the kids who didn’t want to work hard didn’t take it. As a result, she could push kids hard, make them read challenging books, and force them to turn out excellent papers on a weekly basis.

    With the new AP-for-all regime, it’s impossible to teach at that level.

    • That’s how it was when my kids were in school. MD College Park, Georgetown, American or George Washington were where the top kids went if they needed something past AP Calc BC. All of the APs at their school were very rigorous college level, with honors prereqs and the sciences were all double-period every day. I never heard of any kid wanting those sciences, at that level, taking them elsewhere. That was also true of the AP histories, Spanish and English. The kids who went to CC didn’t want or couldn’t do that level work. AP for all is a bad joke and so is dual enrollment, as presently practiced.