Cooperation needed to support college-level high school classes

Cooperation needed to support college-level high school classes

(N.Y.) As the demand for high schools to offer college-level coursework to students grows, so does the need for further collaboration between K-12 districts and local colleges, according to a recent report from the College Board.

While there are numerous benefits to a student getting a jump start on their college education, authors of the report note that the scramble to quickly expand access has left little time for schools and policymakers to step back and ensure academic equity between traditional college courses and their high school counterparts.

“Surging demand from students, high schools, postsecondary institutions, and state policymakers has driven this expansion, which has been accompanied by a small but growing research base analyzing course access, participation, and outcomes,” authors of the report wrote. “However, more rigorous research is needed to ensure that college credit in high school classes are academically sound and that they place students on a path to success.”

Millions of students take some type of course each year that provides them the opportunity to earn college credit. According to the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics, there were 601,000 students enrolled in career and technical education courses that allow students to graduate high school with an industry credential or complete the prerequisites toward earning one during the 2010-11 school year–the most recent year for which national data are available. During that same year, 1.4 million students were dually enrolled, meaning they took college courses and high school classes concurrently.

Additionally, International Baccalaureate exams were administered to 81,000 Diploma Candidates in the U.S. in 2016, and about 2.6 million students took the Advanced Placement exam.

The boom in higher education offerings for secondary students has largely been supported by legislative efforts throughout the country to expand CTE, cover the costs of AP exams for low-income youth and allow students to enroll in community college courses at no cost to their families.

Policymakers often cite the benefits to increasing access to rigorous college courses to high school youth, which include better grades in high school, increased college enrollment, and higher rates of college degree or credential attainment. And with CTE pathways, communities have even been able to close critical skills gaps that harm local employers and fill job needs within their own community.

Yet as the College Board’s report notes, up to 60 percent of students must take noncredit remedial classes in English, math, or both, at a cost to students and families of $1.3 billion each year–despite high secondary school graduation rates. That stalling in progress toward a degree early into one’s higher education often pushes back students’ abilities to earn their degree.

According to the report, while more first-time students entered college in 2008, the percentage of students who had completed a bachelor’s degree six years later was just 55 percent. Only one-third of full-time students pursuing a bachelor’s degree graduate in four years.

In order to better align the courses taught at the college level, authors of the report recommend schools track whether or not students who take that more rigorous coursework in high school demonstrate postsecondary academic outcomes at least equal to those of college students in similar courses. And if they find that students are not performing at that level in the long run, schools should adapt their own programs, whether through providing additional support services such as tutoring to students and professional development for teachers.

Authors also recommended that schools clearly inform students ahead of time whether and how the college credit they earn will be accepted for transfer credit by the college or university, as well as the program of study, where they wish to enroll. At the same time, the report calls on high schools, institutions of higher education and local employers to work together to guarantee that the content and skills that high school students learn are aligned with what colleges and employers expect, and that the credits they earn transfer appropriately.

“Nine out of 10 jobs in the fastest growing sectors of the economy require postsecondary credentials,” authors wrote. “Every student deserves the opportunity to prepare for and participate in rigorous coursework that puts them on a successful path to higher education and the workforce.”