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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Here’s how to do dual-enrollment right

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos greets students at 21st Century Charter School in Gary on Sept. 15. Photo: Kyle Telechan/Post-Tribune

“Dual enrollment” programs that enable high school students to earn college credits are expanding rapidly, but quality varies. The 21st Century Charter in Gary, Indiana shows how to do dual-enrollment right, writes Fordham’s Mike Petrilli in Education Next.

Some of his students earn their associate degree while competing a high school diploma, 21st Century founder Kevin Teasley told Petrilli. Raven Osborne received her bachelor’s degree from Purdue  before graduating from high school.

“Our approach helps kids who come from homes that are mostly void of any college experience understand the rigors of college, and learn what a real college classroom is like,” Teasley says. “If they fail, we are there to support them. But we provide supports right away, so most don’t fail. We don’t just send kids off to college and say swim for your lives. We send confident kids off to college knowing they know how to swim.”

21st Century pays students’ college tuition.

However, “dual enrollment” is “something of a fraud” in some schools, writes Petrilli. “High school students take so-called college courses at their high school, taught by high school teachers, with no external validation that what is learned is actually college-level.”

If “the diploma mill problem” isn’t solved, “an innovative drive toward ‘competency-based learning’ devolves into fraudulent online credit recovery,” writes Petrilli. “And a push toward ‘dual enrollment’ becomes an easy, competency-free way to earn college credits—much less work than, say, taking and passing an Advanced Placement exam.”

Dual-enrollment students are more likely to complete high school, enroll in college and earn degrees concludes a new study from Columbia’s Community College Research Center and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Nearly half of former dual-enrollment students start at a community college. Lower-income students are less likely to complete a degree than higher-income peers.

Lower-income dual-enrollment students need more support, Davis Jenkins, a CCRC researcher and co-author of the report,  told Diverse. “Just taking college courses, especially for low-income students, isn’t enough.”

Dual enrollment programs had dramatically different results in terms of postsecondary degree completion across states. In Florida, Minnesota and Mississippi, more than 60 percent of dual enrollment students who first matriculated at a community college earned a credential or degree five years after high school. By contrast, 30 percent or less of students earned a degree or credential within five years in Louisiana, California and West Virginia. . . . “It’s sort of a Wild West,” Jenkins said. “People aren’t looking at the outcomes and what’s happening to these students.”

About 11 percent of high school students took a dual-enrollment course in 2010-2011, according to federal data. Jenkins estimates the number is much higher now.

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