Opinion
Teaching Opinion

Great & Gruesome K-12/Higher Ed. Encounters

By Joe Nathan — September 18, 2015 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Today, Deborah and Joe Nathan conclude their exchanges. Joe begins, followed by a response from Deborah and a brief comment from Joe.

Deb, some of the best, and worst aspects of democracy are displayed in recent K-12/post-secondary education interactions. We’ve seen respect and disrespect, collaboration and confrontation. With the ironically named “Higher” Learning Commission, we’ve seen abuse of power, particularly their most recent decisions undermining the ability of students to earn college credits while in high school.

Let’s start with collaboration and respect. For the last four summers, Minnesota district, charter, k-12 and post-secondary educators and students have learned from each other. This helps more students be better prepared for education beyond high school.

Recent high school graduates, now in college described how educators helped them, and additional ways to help. This year students suggested that, for example:

High school faculty distribute a syllabus in the first day of class, so students could have an overall view of the class


  • College faculty should try getting to know students as individuals like at least some high school faculty do.
  • Earning college credits while still in high school, gives students confidence and insight in college expectations.

After students spoke, college faculty from two and four year colleges and universities shared expectations for entering students, in reading, writing, math, history and biology. Then high school faculty described some of their most effective teaching techniques. As many “higher” education faculty have not been trained to teach, they rated this highly. These sessions, which our Center facilitated, model mutual respect and collaboration. This year they brought together rural, urban and suburban, district and charter educators. We appreciate help from Otto Bremer, Bigelow, St. Paul, Securian, Travelers foundations and the St. Paul Public Schools.

The Higher Learning Commission, which accredits colleges and universities in 19 states, models disrespect and confrontation with high schools. Despite no consultation with K-12 educators, students or families in Minnesota (or to our knowledge, other states), HLC has new demands on high schools. In 40 years, I’ve never seen such united fury from rural, urban, suburban, district and charter educators, as the HLC’s autocratic efforts have produced.

HLC decided that to teach college level courses, high school faculty must have either a master’s in their field, or a master’s in teaching and 18 additional credits in the field they would be teaching..

These new requirements ignore research that shows that students who participate in current “college in the schools” courses, without such requirements, graduate more quickly than comparable students who don’t take these courses. Minnesota Department of Education research shows that for every racial and economic group, dual courses also have a major impact on high school graduation rates - up to 30 points difference.

Some college faculty fear that more deal credit means fewer students taking entry level classes. Students earning dual credits can graduate earlier. Of course, families and students love this. But they don’t seem to matter much to HLC.

Currently college faculty must approve high school faculty, train and then evaluate their work. This is creative, constructive collaboration. That’s democracy at its best.

The Minnesota Rural Education Association calls HLC’s action a “one size fits all” approach. Minnesota Association of School Administrators, Minnesota Charter School Association and other groups have urged HLC to revise its approach. Minnesota’s largest daily newspaper, a strong public school supporter, blasted the new HLC policy.

People in several states are opposing new HLC’s new policy. To join the challenge, contact joe@centerforschoolchange.org

Deborah Meier responds:

Dear Joe,

Most of all, I’m with you 100% regarding how this decision was made. If not surprised. The disrespect that college faculties often demonstrate to high school faculties in their own field has always astounded me.

It probably didn’t hit me as hard as you because in the states I’ve worked in high school teachers have for a very long time been required to have an MA (ditto for elementary teachers) on their field, or an MA and a certain number of courses in any field they teach.

Given the evidence you refer to I think we may have reason to rethink such requirements. But they don’t seem as unreasonable to me as you. We finessed that at the old CPESS high school by pairing teachers who had related disciplines teaching inter-disciplinary courses. What’s different about these college-level courses than AP courses? Actually we didn’t have Aps either at CPESS. We had students take courses at college campuses so that they’d get a feel for the kind of expectations colleges had. Or had college faculty teach a course on our campus. Students had a choice of getting college credit for these or working with high school faculty member to get high school credit for the course. Yes, that’s easier to do in NYC than rural areas!

Maybe it is worth exploring why more high school courses aren’t intellectually challenging? That shouldn’t have to wait for college.

Good luck in getting this policy reconsidered with mutual input from all concerned

Joe responds:

Deb, thanks for your encouragement. The courses I’m describing differ from AP in how the student’s work is judged. With concurrent enrollment, also called “College in the Schools,”, college and high school credit are awarded based on the students work over an entire semester or year. WIth AP, college credit is awarded based on how well a student does on one day, and one test. While I think AP has value, I think you and I agree that it’s better to not rely on a single test to make a judgement about what a student learned, and whether she/he deserves credit. Ironically, the HLC policy does not have an impact on AP instructors - only those who are working directly with colleges and universities.

We’re encouraged by the bi-partisan challenge to the HLC by legislators across the political spectrum - Republicans and Democrats. District, charter, rural, urban and suburban educators, students and families, along with various civil and community groups are joining this challenge. We hope HLC listens.

Joe Nathan has received local, state and national awards for his inner city public school teaching and work as an administrator. He directs the Center for School Change, and also has served as a Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School, where he taught for 22 years.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Bridging Differences are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Opinion You Can Motivate Students to Accelerate Learning This Year
If young people suffered setbacks during the pandemic, it doesn’t mean they’re broken. Now is the chance to cover more ground than ever.
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty
Teaching Opinion A 6th Grade Class on Racism Got Me Ready for the Rest of My Life
Every student should have the opportunity to learn about race, writes a college freshman.
Cristian Gaines
4 min read
Illustration of silhouettes of people with speech bubbles.
Getty
Teaching Opinion The Classroom-Management Field Can’t Stop Chasing the Wrong Goal
And, no, new social-emotional-learning initiatives aren’t the answer, writes Alfie Kohn.
Alfie Kohn
5 min read
Illustration of children being cut free from puppet strings
Daniel Fishel for Education Week
Teaching Photos What School Looks Like When Learning Moves Outside
One class of 5th graders shows what's possible when teachers take their lessons outside.
1 min read
Teacher Angela Ninde, right, works with students in their garden at Centreville Elementary School in Centreville, Va., on Sept. 7, 2021.
Teacher Angela Ninde, right, works with students in their garden at Centreville Elementary School in Centreville, Va.
Jaclyn Borowski/Education Week