Dear Commissioner Paredes,
Because I started this summer series on dual enrollment with an interview with you, I felt it was only fitting to end it with a letter to you. When we spoke, I could tell how important the subject of dual enrollment is to you, and I know you want to take a leadership role in transforming the current system. I also know you can work with our legislators, the State Board of Education, the Texas Education Agency, Bill Hammond and the Texas Association of Business, and all other individuals and entities involved in the process.
While writing this series, several recurring themes emerged, obviously indicating the need to address them. I respectfully submit to you these items:
1. The level of rigor does not appear to be equal for students across the state. Standards should be in place to ensure “rigor equality” so all students who take dual enrollment courses will have a solid foundation in those courses, thus increasing the likelihood that they will be successful in upper-level courses in college. Look at programs like UT’s OnRamps and how university professors/teachers grade the college-level work of students in the program while the high school teachers grade the high-school-level work. This appears to be an excellent way to maintain rigor.
2. Much like the system of pre-AP and AP, it appears standards should also be developed to control the number of ninth and tenth graders enrolled in dual enrollment courses in some areas of the state. High standards of eligibility must be demanded for all students.
3. Mandatory student/parent meetings regarding dual enrollment should be required to include the pros and the cons (including GPA and financial aid), as well as information about how to determine what credits will and will not transfer based on the college a student plans to attend. Parents and students should be guided as to how to obtain a degree plan and how to speak to college admissions officers regarding the transfer process. Parents should also be aware of all forms students are required to sign indicating whether they do or do not wish to earn college credit.
4. All high school counselors in the state should undergo thorough training as to the dual enrollment process.
5. A standardized vetting process should be established for selecting high school teachers who will teach dual enrollment courses. This process should prevent a school or district from going to another institute of higher learning for vetting of a teacher when one institution denied him/her.
6. High training standards should be in place for all high school teachers who will teach dual enrollment courses. This training should be ongoing.
7. The Higher Education Coordinating Board and other entities should take a long, hard look at all of the courses across the state that are being offered for dual enrollment credit and determine which are legitimate and which are “fluff” and put a stop to those determined to be “fluff.”
8. A list of programs/districts/institutions of higher learning offering Best Practices should be compiled and shared throughout the state.
9. All courses taught for dual enrollment credit should meet established standards for college-level curriculum.
10. An ongoing communication system should be established between Texas colleges and our public schools, clearly identifying both the strengths and the weaknesses of dual enrollment so the strengths can be maintained and the weaknesses can be addressed.
Thank you, Commissioner Paredes, for shining a light on concerns surrounding dual enrollment. Done right, as it was originally intended, dual enrollment can provide high school students with an excellent head start.
Columnist at the Valley Town Crier
Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and works for a McAllen-based alternative certification program. Chris can be reached at email@example.com.