Dual-ly noted: What’s the fuss?

Seven years ago I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to envision an ideal high school, and to turn that vision into a reality. My school district had recently acquired a state-funded grant to found an Early College High School, a new and burgeoining concept melding secondary and post-secondary education.

As an educator, program coordinator and instructional coach for Sheldon Early College High School in Houston, Texas, I, along with my colleagues, was able to create a unique environment where underserved and underrepresented student populations were given the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree and high school diploma at the same time. We were able to accomplish this with a non-traditional high school course model: dual enrollment.

In the 2017-2018 school year, more than 3 million students participated in this now fast growing sector of education. Dual enrollment, also known as concurrent enrollment and dual credit, is the practice of allowing students to be enrolled in two institutions at once: a high school or middle school and an institute of higher education (IHE).

In most models, the students tandemly earn credit towards their high school diploma and credit towards their associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Dual enrollment has grown by over 67% since 2002, with some states such as Texas experiencing growth rates of over 1000%! With substantial dual-enrollment offerings, the first graduating class of Sheldon Early College, or SECHS, earned over 4,000 college credit course hours with over 65% actually earning their associates’ degrees!

Dual enrollment, however, is not just found in early college high school models. This model has also spread to traditional high schools. Studies published by the Community College Resource Center indicate that successful completion of dual enrollment classes decreases the timeline in which students attain a college credential after high school graduation.

In fact, 46% of students who took a dual enrollment course in high school went on to complete a certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree within 5 years of graduation compared to 39% of students who did not participate in dual enrollment attaining a credential in 6 years. Additional studies from What Works Clearinghouse indicate that dual enrollment has positive effects on student attendance, grades, high school graduation rates, college enrollment and college completion.

The positive effects are especially significant with minority and first-generation college students. I’ve witnessed this first-hand with my students at SECHS, where over 50% of our student population were first generation college students and over 85% were classified as low-socioeconomic status, yet 100% graduated with their high school diploma.

As high schools, community colleges, and 4-year universities discover the benefits of dual enrollment, the partnerships between these institutions have become more frequent and more unique to best serve the needs of all student populations. Dual enrollment courses can be taken physically at a community college or 4-year university campus, digitally through online courses, and many are being offered directly at the high school with high school faculty attaining college teaching credentials. State legislation is now in place in 47 states governing the relationship between the high school and IHE to ensure equitable access to dual enrollment for all students.

As enrollment and class offerings have increased, ensuring the quality and rigor of dual enrollment has become a core focus. As such, institutions have arisen to accredit these partnerships, the largest of which is NACEP, The National Association of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships. NACEP accreditation is the preeminent distinction among secondary and higher ed partnerships and reflects meeting measurable criteria in 5 different categories: curriculum, faculty, students, assessment, and program evaluation.

Currently more than 100 programs are NACEP accredited. Pearson is proud to be a sponsor for both the National and Regional NACEP conferences and looks forward to presenting how our engaging, student-driven platforms can enhance student success.

I am thrilled that Pearson recognizes this fast-growing sector and is committed to providing solutions and services as unique as these programs themselves. When I reflect back on my experience designing Sheldon Early College High School, the suite of Pearson products and services could have helped us to improve student course grades, provide personalized tutoring, and create a college-growing culture. As Customer Success Specialists dedicated to those using Higher Ed Courseware in K-12, we have been hard at work to ensure a smooth Back-to-School Fall 2019. Our initiatives include expansion of Pearson’s Dual Enrollment website, a customized Dual Enrollment Instructor Handbook, and launch of Dual Enrollment Customer Success Journeys.

For more information on the studies mentioned in this blog and more, visit: http://www.nacep.org/, https://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/, https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/EvidenceSnapshot/671.

About the author:

Julie Cavanaugh earned a BS degree in Biochemistry & Microbiology from North Carolina State University as a member of the Park Scholarships. She pursued graduate studies at Duke University and completed an MS degree in Biology at Texas A&M Commerce. After several years of research in Virology she decided to pursue a career in secondary education full time. Within five years, she had attained school, district, and regional teacher of the year cementing her desire to stay in the field. She served as an instructional coach and program coordinator for Sheldon Early College High School in Houston, Texas before transitioning to a dual-credit instructor role teaching Biology I & II in conjunction with Lee College and Hargrave High School. She is passionate about dual-credit programs and the potential they have to transform the traditional high school setting. Julie recently joined the Pearson Customer Success team to help us better serve customers in the dual enrollment and APHE space. She still resides in Houston, Texas, where in her spare time she travels abroad and trains for ultramarathons.

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