Dual credit task force confronts removal of standards

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Changes will be made official next year

By R. Eguia

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

­­­Prior to passage of House Bill 505, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board had the authority to regulate the number of dual credit hours taken and the locations offered.

Now that House Bill 505 has removed that authority and regulations will come from the higher education institutions, district has formed a task force led by Jo Carol Fabianke, vice chancellor of academic success, to manage an expected increase in dual credit applications.

During a dinner in September with high school superintendents from districts in the Alamo Colleges service area, Fabianke pointed to funding, advising, professional development standards and access as four major areas of concern for dual credit students.

Fabianke compared access between dual credit courses offered in Northside Independent School district versus smaller districts such as La Vernia Independent School District.

“How can a student take a dual credit chemistry class at a school that may not have a chemistry lab or even offer a chemistry course?” Fabianke said.

High school students do have the opportunity to enroll in a dual credit class online with this district if they want to take a dual credit class that is not offered at their school.

More advising is important to usher high school students into a collegiate mind-set.

“Once a student receives a college transcript, they are beginning their college career,” Fabianke said. “Students should make sure it counts.”

High schools students enrolled in dual credit courses are subject to the same college rules, such as the six-drop and three-peat rules. Grades earned in dual credit will stay with a student for the rest of their college career.

Fabianke considered the difference between the high school classroom and a college classroom. There is more emphasis on critical thinking in college than in high school and some high school teachers continue to treat their dual credit students like only high school students, she said.

“We want to make sure that high school students enrolled in dual credit at their schools are being taught the same way college students are being taught in a college,” Fabianke said.

Dual credit high school teachers must satisfy the same requirements as a professor, but Fabianke said professional development for dual credit high school teachers must happen to ensure students are truly receiving the same level of instruction.

Typically, Texas teacher certification requires candidates to have completed a teacher certification program and hold at least a bachelor’s degree.

Funding is a concern because some colleges, such as the Alamo colleges, do not charge and typically dual credit is not an expense to high schools because they use their teaching staff who are already being paid to teach.

If the district decides to implement professional development of high school dual credit teachers, high school districts would have to pay instructors for this specific dual credit training. While the district would have to pay the trainers who will train high school dual credit teachers to be teaching these courses the same way they are offered at college.

“If we do all of the training, we have to pay for the training. Then we have to find time for the training. It will cost more money for all of us,” Fabianke said.

District 1 trustee Joe Alderete talked about the current state of dual credit funding at the Student Success Committee meeting Feb 16.

“The district absorbs all costs associated with dual credit and early college programs,” he said.

This college district currently offers dual credit classes for free.

Other college districts in this state offer dual credit to high school students at regular full tuition prices. Others offer dual credit at half tuition while some offer classes at flat rates like $100 per student for dual credit enrollment.

“As the programs continue to grow, there is more pressure on both the state and district budget,” Alderete said. “We want to preserve the vitality of dual credit and early college high school programs, but the state needs to step up.”

This year is an interim year for the Texas Legislature so changes in dual credit funding from the state will not be applicable until Jan 17.

During the 83rd Legislative interim last year, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst issued the following interim charges to the Senate Higher Education Committee regarding dual credit:

“Review and make recommendations regarding the use of dual credit coursework and other secondary school programs for college credit, including the academic rigor of such programs and predictive value for college success.”

A special dual credit committee was organized by the Texas senate’s Higher Education Committee to explore these recommendations this year and prepare for actual changes next year.

The Senate Higher Education Committee made the following recommendations to this committee last year:

  1. Texas school districts and public institutions of higher education should continue to work together to encourage shared usage of equipment and facilities for dual credit purposes.
  2. Public institutions of higher education should improve oversight of dual credit programs and include those improvement procedures in their written partnership agreements with school districts, paying particular attention to monitoring and assisting dual credit instructors and ensuring that dual credit courses are rigorous and consistent.
  3. The Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and Texas Workforce Commission should align data systems and encourage data sharing for more efficient and effective tracking of students to and through college and then into the workforce.
  4. The Legislature should ensure that all Texas students have access to at least 12 semester credit hours while enrolled in high school.

After the initial unofficial dual credit discussion last September when Fabianke first introduced these four areas of interest to superintendents and district representatives, everyone agreed a more direct discussion would be needed.

Fabianke invited Educate Texas, a public-private partnership focused on improving the public education system, to facilitate the first formal discussion regarding dual credit.

“We realized how complex dual credit is and we organized a special task force,” Fabianke said.

The dual credit task force is composed of about 15 independent school district superintendents from this district’s service area, principals and curriculum instruction heads focused on the four areas of interest presented by Fabianke.

“We all agree that all of theses considerations are still in discussion. We have got to do more deliberate work with advising students because there is so much academic oversight,” Fabianke said.

She said the task force will be prepared to make a decision on the new standards for dual credit by the end of this month or early April.

High school students enrolled in dual credit will be subject to these new standards by fall of next year.

Which means that the task force must begin to initiate these changes internally by fall of this year.

Fabianke said the state wants to create a “college-going culture” and dual credit opportunities nurture that idea.

Alderete said, “These programs have a strong return on investment because of the 60X30 endeavor.”

The 60X30 Texas higher education strategic plan is designed to achieve approximately 60 percent completion of the 25- to 34-year-old workforce population to hold a postsecondary credential by 2030.

This district’s dual credit task force will meet again at 3 p.m. March 10 at Café College.

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2 Comments

  1. What high school in Texas doesn’t offer a Chemistry course? At La Vernia ISD, our students can take college level courses as we offer several AP and dual credit courses both on campus and online. This article implies LVISD is too small to even have high school chemistry. Not true!

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