The National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Programs was established in 2000 as a support group of sorts for administrators coping with the challenges of serving as liaisons between the distinct cultures of K-12 and higher education.
But members of NACEP quickly realized they shared concerns about the hands-off way some colleges operated their concurrent-enrollment programs. They worried those practices could cast doubt on their own work.
“[Programs] were certifying a course as college-level without visiting or looking at the syllabus or the credentials for the instructors,” said Gerald S. Edmonds, the director of Project Advance, a concurrent-enrollment program operated by Syracuse University, and NACEP’s accreditation chairman. “It’s like they were selling credits.”
The association’s founding colleges drafted a set of program-accreditation standards, approved in 2002. Twenty-three colleges have received such accreditation since 2004, and 37 more are to go through the process in the next five years.
The organization plans to review colleges’ programs every seven years and to continually revise its standards as researchers and practitioners reach consensus on the characteristics of effective programs offering concurrent-enrollment high school courses.
Colleges seeking the accreditation must submit evidence that they’re sharing course content and expectations, including assessments, with their high school partners. And high school instructors must have the same credentials as other adjunct faculty members hired by the colleges.
The group has urged its members to collect data on student outcomes, particularly success in the college courses that build upon the classes for which students received dual credit.
For instance, if a student has taken an entry-level biology class through concurrent enrollment, the program should track how well that student performs in a more advanced course, such as genetics.
While such data collection is voluntary for now, it will likely be incorporated into NACEP’s next set of accreditation standards, which programs will have to meet when seeking the seal of approval in 2011, Mr. Edmonds said.