Dual credit task force investigates rigor at Café College

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The group meets today to discuss available resources .

By R. Eguia


March 10, high school dual credit teachers and superintendents from the Alamo Colleges service area met with Alamo Colleges’ administration and professors for the fifth meeting dedicated to navigating the newly unregulated dual credit sphere.

Rosena Garcia, director of high school programs for this college, said the task force was designed to incorporate the voices of all the people who will be affected by dual credit reform. Those potential changes of dual credit standards are generated at these meetings when instructors discuss recommendations and concerns from their own experience.

As community college districts across the state scramble to create a standard for dual credit, this district is positioning itself out in front, said Susan Henderson, program manager for Educate Texas.

Educate Texas is a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the public and higher education system in this state. Henderson considers herself a convener because she brings a diverse group of people together to resolve a problem collaboratively.

“Since we first started, we knew this group of brainstormers and thinkers would generate rich information, but we did not expect the depth of exploration of differences and similarities between high school and college,” said Henderson, who facilitates the dual credit task force meetings.

This meeting investigated rigor. That is, if dual credit high school students are really getting a college experience at college standards. Previous meetings were focused on access and advising.

Jo Carol Fabianke, vice chancellor of academic success, said about three years ago, the district began enforcing high school program course agreements. This document examines the course information and requirements for faculty and students. The agreement was designed to create a connection between the college classroom and the high school classroom.

All attendees were invited to a round table discussion in which each person highlighted concerns with the current high school program course agreement.

The agreement surveys course information and qualifications and requirements for teachers and students.

Fabianke said since the inception of dual credit programs in 1989, there really has not been a conversation about what really happens in high school dual credit classrooms.

The first area of change voiced by high school instructors is an alignment of letter grades. High school grading policy requires a numerical grade while this college grading policy requires a letter grade. High school teachers said the difference in a letter grade and numerical grade had a huge impact on high school students final GPA which determines their class rank standing.

Fabianke talked about the alignment of expectations in a college-ready classroom which should satisfy the core objectives of the Texas Core Curriculum outlined by the coordinating board: critical thinking skills, communication skills, empirical and quantitive skills, teamwork, social and personal responsibility.

High school dual credit teachers expressed concern about being overloaded by dual credit course instruction on top of their regular high school course load while college instructors expressed concern about the capacity to serve students with online classes.

Because the five colleges that compose this district are all independently accredited, high schools must follow separate rules when working with different colleges within the district.

As director of high school programs, Garcia, is hopeful that the future dual credit plan will have more continuity and be easier to navigate for high school instructors.

“Accreditation is on the line for high schools. It is a huge challenge for them because they must satisfy their primary expectations while also satisfying the college standards,” Garcia said.

High school students who are interested in pursuing dual credit classes are challenged to pass their standardized STAR test and test at a college level on the TSI exam, Garcia said.

“We are being are very cautious in planning because there are a lot of potentially damaging effects to a students’ college career if they are not ready for dual credit classes. A transcript is a transcript and even if you dropped or failed classes in high school, those grades will remain on your transcript forever,” Garcia said.

Catherine Hoffman, dual credit liaison for the Lytle ISD said she wants her dual credit students to sweat and rise to the challenge of a dual credit course so that they can find out what real college is.

“Yeah it’s hard, but they need to suck it up and really understand the implications of dropping a college course,” Hoffman said.

Garcia created a webpage for high school students and teachers to navigate the dual credit process and which people to contact.

A high school dual credit instructor said, “The perception that high school teachers just give away credit to students is just not true.”

After the round table, the group identified the topics they want to cover at the next meeting, which is dedicated to sharing professional development and resources.

The group generated the following focus points: standards for instructional delivery of lecture and lab time percentage; SLO and TEKS alignment training; assessment of the high school dual credit class room; dual credit best practices; TSI exam interventions; academic advising; interventions, remediation and repercussions; re-testing policies; special accommodations; FERPA laws and parent involvement; shared instructional resources between high school and college instructors; and best practices for proctoring online courses.

High school instructors are eager to have contact with college instructors to further align efforts.

Henderson emphasized that one size does not fit all and these discussions are important to figure out what will work best for the needs of this district and the high schools that it services.

High school dual credit teachers shared their experiences with college professors and administration to provide insight for the new dual credit margins that will ultimately be decided between them.

Garcia, Fabianke and Educate Texas conveners, are organizing the concerns and recommendations generated from these meetings to a blue print of sorts that will be presented to the 40+ superintendents of all the high school districts this college district serves.

Once the high school superintendents review and provide recommendations for the first draft of the blue print, Garcia and her team will present the plan to the chancellor for further review.

“Once we figure out what we are going to do, then we can figure out exactly how much it will cost and then we need to figure out who is going to pay for it. Government mandates do not come with funding,” Garcia said.

The final plan will be implemented in fall of 2017.

The next dual credit task force meeting will focus on resources without funding at 3 p.m. today at Café College.









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