Four Ways to Build a Good Program for College Credit in High School

By Catherine Gewertz — November 30, 2017 2 min read
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Programs that offer high school students the chance to earn college credit should be designed with four key principles in mind to ensure high quality, according to a report released Thursday.

The popularity of dual-enrollment courses and other programs that confer college credit has soared in recent years. But as their popularity has grown, so has awareness of their problems. Weak courses that don’t measure up to college standards. A patchwork of varying requirements for teachers who teach them. Disappointment when promised credits don’t transfer.

These are among the concerns that led the College Board to convene a “College Credit in High School Working Group” to study the field and come up with nuts-and-bolts advice to help program designers avoid potential problems. The group, which includes some powerhouse names in education policy, issued its report today.

Its guidance falls into four categories of questions that can be used to shape programs:

  • Rigor and accountability. Programs should be able to demonstrate that students who earn college credit in high school have indeed mastered college-level work. This means showing that a student who got college credit in English can perform as well as a college student in an equivalent course. Data about those outcomes should be shared with the public. Programs also must ensure that teachers are qualified to teach college-level courses.
  • Value for time and money invested. To ensure a sound investment, policymakers should study outcomes to see whether dual-credit students are progressing through college and participating in the workforce. To fulfill a promise that dual-credit programs can save students money, states should examine course-credit transfer policies.
  • Equity and access. Programs should ensure equal access by all students. Recent studies have found that low-income and racial minority students, and boys, don’t take advantage of dual-enrollment programs as often as other students do. Programs must do a better job of informing notifying students and parents of the opportunity, the College Board paper says.
  • Transparency about credit transfer. Students “should be clearly informed ahead of time” about whether their credits will transfer to the college they plan to attend, and whether those credits will be applied to their chosen course of study. High schools, employers, and higher education must collaborate to design dual-enrollment programs, so the “content and skills that high school students learn are aligned with what colleges and employers expect and that credits transfer appropriately.”

For more stories on dual-credit programs, see:

Image: Courtesy of Samedaypapers

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.