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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Dual enrollment soars, but is it really college?

Sarah Olufemi-Dada is graduating from her Texas high school with a diploma, an associate science and a full scholarship to Stanford, reports KHOU11. She plans to study bioengineering and computer science.

The Cypress High School student took dual-enrollment classes at LoneStar College CyFair, while working to help support her family. She cut back on extracurriculars to make time. “I wanted to be great and though I couldn’t be great in my instrument or my sport, I knew at least with academics, I could do something,” she said.

California should enroll every ninth grader in at least one community college course, argues Sonya Christian, the incoming chancellor of the system. The idea is that college is for everyone, not just for high achievers like Olufemi-Dada.

Her model is McFarland High School, in a small, nearly all Latino farm town, where all ninth graders are enrolled in Bakersfield College's career planning course.

Students are put on track to earn at least nine college credits, writes Emma Gallegos in EdSource. Some can try to earn an associate degree for transfer, while others earn college credit "in agriculture business management, public health, education, photography and welding."

The latest available data shows McFarland High students do better than the state average in English Language Arts, but very poorly in math and science.

Many California high school graduates fail entry-level reading, writing and math classes in community college. Could they really pass those classes in ninth or tenth or 11th or 12th grade? Perhaps photography and welding.

Michael Horn, writing in Forbes, points out the risks of expanding dual enrollment without "external validation" to ensure students really are learning at the college level.

Early research suggests that dual-enrollment students benefit, when the program is "done well," Horn writes. How often is it done well? We don't know.

. . . in many high schools, the neighboring community college trains the high school teachers to deliver the community college course So students aren’t actually taking a college course taught by a college professor with other college students. Is the resulting teaching and learning experience the same as a college course?

Horn has his doubts.

If it's not feasible for high school students to travel to a college campus to take a course taught by a professor, he suggests taking a college class online.

Acadeum "started offering dual enrollment opportunities two years ago," he writes. "High school students in these courses are taking the actual college course, with an actual faculty member, and sometimes with other college students." The platform offers more than 3,000 courses from 20 institutions.

"Similarly, Arizona State University Prep Digital — an accredited K–12 online high school where I’m an advisor — offers students in its partner high schools the opportunity to take actual college classes from ASU," Horn writes. "Because ASU is a top research institution, credits have a better chance at transferring."

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