Louisiana has changed the rules governing dual-enrollment college credit for high schoolers in response to concerns about the academic preparation of the students who take those classes.
Dual-enrollment courses allow high school students to earn college credit before graduating. Some of these courses are taught on college campuses. When taught in high schools, these courses are supposed to offer the equivalent of college-level coursework. That would justify earning college credit for taking them. But Higher Education Commissioner Joseph Rallo and others have questioned whether these high school courses are on par with university-level courses, reports the Advocate.
Critics of stricter dual-enrollment rules cite the benefits of these courses. Students who participate tend to earn better grades in their high school classes, and they are more likely to enroll in college and earn a degree. But Commissioner Rallo points out that 63 percent of Louisiana students who enter two-year colleges are found to need remediation, a problem that needs to be addressed before students are awarded college credits.
One of the changes made by the legislature last week aims to ensure that students are getting the help they need. Those in need of remediation, based on their ACT English or math scores, must show that they are working to improve in areas where the test deems them deficient. Those scoring less than a 19 out of a possible 36 in ACT math can enroll in dual-enrollment English, foreign language, history or introductory social science, humanities or arts survey courses only if, at the same time, they show they are getting extra help to bring up their math scores.
The same goes for students who score less than an 18 in ACT English. They can enroll in dual-enrollment math courses only if they prove they are also working to improve their reading and writing skills.
Yet another change to the dual-enrollment rules affects instructors. Going forward, dual-enrollment instructors who are not professors must get training from the partner college in how to teach the course and evaluate student work.
The changes come at a time when dual-enrollment courses are in high demand. Students can earn more than 30 college credits in Louisiana before graduating from high school, and that saves them a lot of time and money. Dual-enrollment participation has doubled in the state over the past seven years, from 9,651 public school students taking courses in 2009, to 20,036 taking courses last year, according to the Advocate.
Concerns about the quality and rigor of dual-enrollment courses have not been limited to Louisiana. A 2015 ruling by the Higher Learning Commission, a Chicago-based group that accredits colleges and universities across the West and Midwest, requires teachers of high school dual-enrollment courses to hold a master’s degree. The ruling triggered concerns that the program would be decimated in areas where few teachers hold advanced degrees.
Another concern about dual-enrollment programs is who’ll pay for them. Catherine Gewertz breaks down the problem in this blog post. In Louisiana, the state pays the tuition for public school students. And now there will be even more money dedicated to dual enrollment since the legislature, with the backing of Gov. John Bel Edwards, has increased spending on the program by $10 million per year, pushing total spending to $17.5 million.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.