College & Workforce Readiness

College-Credit Plan for High-Schoolers a Hot Iowa Debate

By Scott J. Cech — April 08, 2008 1 min read
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Dual-enrollment programs are no longer unusual. The U.S. Department of Education says that more than half of all colleges enroll high school students in courses for college credit. What is unusual is the kind of pushback a proposed expansion of dual enrollment in Iowa has provoked.

To many, Gov. Chet Culver’s “Senior Year Plus” proposal to let dual-enrollment students take up to 30 hours of college credit might have seemed an uncontroversial way to give them a free head start in college.

But the bill, introduced last February at the behest of the Democratic governor, rankled some members of the higher education community, including Lee Skeens, a psychology professor at Southeastern Community College in West Burlington, Iowa.

See Also

See other stories on education issues in Iowa. See data on Iowa’s public school system.

“We’re already getting students who are … not academically prepared for college courses,” said Mr. Skeens, who also chairs a higher education committee in the National Education Association-affiliated Iowa State Education Association. “If we start reaching down for more students, I don’t see that as a good thing.”

The association hasn’t taken a formal position, he said, but he and about 50 other representatives from higher education groups, including the Iowa Association of Community College Trustees, met with legislators on dual enrollment and other topics in March.

Democratic state Rep. Cindy Winckler, the bill’s floor manager and a former teacher, said lawmakers amended the legislation after hearing concerns about training gaps among some high school teachers who were leading college courses.

“Fifty to 70 percent of those [dual-enrollment] courses are taught by a high school teacher that is then hired in their own building to teach a college-equivalent course,” she said.

The bill, which has also been introduced in the Iowa Senate, now calls for students to meet colleges’ normal enrollment requirements and to show proficiency on state achievement tests or alternative assessments.

Further, it provides for a committee of postsecondary and other educators to conduct random audits of classes to ensure they’re up to college standards.

A version of this article appeared in the April 09, 2008 edition of Education Week

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