Continuing the Conversation on Dual Enrollment

By Elaine Carey

Soon after publication of the September 2015 issue of Perspectives on History, I began noting lively discussions of the issue’s forum, which was on dual enrollment (DE). COVER-V1-R01 (1)The forum featured articles by the AHA’s Julia Brookins, DE teacher Daniel Brandon Swart, Indiana University’s Alex Lichtenstein, South Texas College’s Trinidad Gonzales (who’s also a councilor in the AHA’s Teaching Division), and me. (I’m chair of the history department at St. John’s University, in Queens, New York.) Alex and I focused on the challenges we encountered in administering DE, while Brandon and Trinidad described the benefits and potentials of DE. Upon publication of the forum, I immediately received informal feedback from other historians and deans. The articles have been reposted on the electronic bulletin board of the National Alliance for Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP). Colleagues also shared the AHA’s post on Facebook, giving rise to spirited conversations, as was the case when Stephanie Kingsley, the associate editor of web content and social media, posed the question “What does dual enrollment look like at your school?” on the AHA’s Member Forum. I would like to briefly summarize some of the insights, questions, and debates that the Perspectives forum generated.

Many of our colleagues are familiar with DE, whether as educators, administrators, students, or parents, while others had no experience with DE. Some educators described high school students taking classes on college campuses, which is a form of DE. This model has existed for many years, but it is neither the model that is growing nor what we addressed in Perspectives.

The model that is increasing is the one in which students, in some cases middle school level, take college courses for credit in their high schools. Sometimes, these classes are full sections in which a community college teacher teaches onsite. More often, high school teachers teach these classes, though there are many other college-level courses in one school. In the many responses we observed, teachers and educators described the numerous opportunities but also issues facing students, their parents, high schools, and higher education institutions with multiple types of college-level classes, whether DE, Advanced Placement (AP), or International Baccalaureate (IB)

Some members called for disciplinary standards, credentialing of teachers, and improved relations with partnering institutions and colleges to assist in preparing students and offering access. Other colleagues mentioned NACEP and encouraged institutions to seek accreditation.

NACEP accreditation, however, does not address all issues, because states or institutions might create their own guidelines. These greatly differ. For instance, I learned that in certain states, private institutions are not permitted to offer DE because the state funds the program. I also learned that a high school student with a 2.0 GPA could take a college class in some states but that in others that same student would have to have a 3.0 or higher GPA. In some states, a ninth grader can start taking DE, while in others the programs only begin in 11th grade.

Other members asked questions. One that was striking regarded context. Does the same level of historical inquiries and discussions take place in a class that is comprised of 16-year-olds as it would with 22-year-olds?

As I write this blog post, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)—which accredits over 19 degree-granting institutions in the Midwest and Southwest—has recently issued a clarification of its Assumed Practices regarding the roles, qualifications, and credentials of faculty and instructors. This document focuses on dual credit by stressing the importance of qualified faculty and reasserting that those teaching college-level classes “should have completed a program of study in the discipline or the subfield in which they teach[.]” Furthermore, the document reads, “institutions that award college credit by means of dual credit must assure the quality and integrity of such programs[.]”

Even with the NACEP and the HLC statements on best practices, which have triggered debate in many states and institutions, I have a remaining question: What should we, as historians, do about dual enrollment? I invite you to continue this important conversation at the AHA’s annual meeting in Atlanta. The panel on dual/concurrent enrollment will be on Thursday, January 7, 2016, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the Hilton’s Grand Ballroom A.

No matter which way debate proceeds, this is a multifaceted issue without easy resolution. I’m glad that the Perspectives forum elicited strong opinions and insightful comments. I hope that the conversation at the annual meeting will prove fruitful.

Elaine Carey is the AHA’s vice president for the Teaching Division and chair of the History Department at St. John’s University. 

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