What does the road to dual enrollment look like for high school teachers?

High schools students learning together

Ensuring that dual enrollment courses match the rigor and quality of traditional higher education courses requires thorough teacher training and accreditation, access to collegiate curricula, affordable student materials, and student readiness programs. It can be a challenge to coordinate all of these vital elements for every dual enrollment class, especially considering the myriad of dual enrollment course models available. Courses can be taken on the college campus, on the high school campus, remotely online, and even in hybrid versions comprised of online and face-to-face instructor interaction.

Overcoming obstacles to accreditation

The extensive initial accreditation process and training is an issue that I have personally experienced as the first dual enrollment science instructor for Lee College in Baytown, Texas. Previously, I had been teaching various levels of secondary science curricula from remedial to advanced placement (AP) when I received accreditation from Lee College to teach biology and related subjects at Hargrave High School in Huffman, Texas.

To receive this accreditation, I had to provide documentation of undergraduate and graduate school transcripts, proof of completion of my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and a CV outlining my research projects and publications.

The biology department developed an internal committee to review my paper credentials before beginning a three-step interview process. I had an initial sit down interview to discuss my experience before being asked to design and teach a sample lesson at the college campus. Finally, I had to undergo a skills assessment to test my laboratory acumen.

Facing professional development challenges

While necessary to ensure instructor quality, the accreditation process often creates a bottleneck effect for dual enrollment programs. Student interest far exceeds a school’s ability to vet instructors. A focus of many dual enrollment coordinators, policy makers, and school officials is simplifying the process of identifying and accrediting qualified instructors. This resonated with the attendees of the 2019 regional and national NACEP conferences who completed the survey at our Pearson booth. In fact, 41% of respondents indicated teacher professional development and accreditation was one of their largest program pain points.

The College Board Advanced Placement program offers week-long, intensive summer institutes on college campuses nationwide where teachers receive certification to teach AP courses. Can collegiate systems work in conjunction with governing bodies such as NACEP to hold similar dual enrollment institutes?

While the process of obtaining credentials can be cumbersome, it is equally difficult to maintain a schedule of professional development opportunities for dual enrollment instructors. Hargrave High School was more than a 50 minute drive from Lee College, prohibiting me from attending most on-site training. Travel to department meetings, team meetings, and faculty-wide technology and platform training could feasibly take an entire day, when in actuality high school teachers are only granted one or two 50 minute planning periods per school day.

The need for creative solutions

The most effective dual enrollment programs will solve these problems with outside-the-box solutions. Many collegiate partners are now offering evening, weekend, and summer professional development opportunities to accommodate the traditional high school teacher’s schedule. In addition, on-demand and webinar-based professional development can help bridge the distance gap between high school and college campuses.

The University of Texas OnRamps program employs a hybrid model wherein high school dual enrollment teachers attend an intensive summer institute followed by continual web-based support from a tenured faculty member. This allows the program to be administered throughout the entire state of Texas, helping to alleviate both the accreditation and professional development distance gap. Another unique solution is the development of dual enrollment satellite campuses such as the Lee College South Liberty Education Center. This center is located an hour away from the main campus of Lee College, allowing for a different subset of area high school students to convene to take dual enrollment classes from a qualified instructor, thus also helping to alleviate the burden of teacher accreditation and training.

These issues represent a small subset of the challenges faced by dual enrollment programs. In subsequent blogs, we’ll explore additional pain points we’ve discovered, share best practices, and present ways that Pearson is here to ensure equitable access to quality dual enrollment courses. Stay tuned for future posts addressing access to collegiate curricula, affordable student materials, and student readiness programs.

For more information on the OnRamps program, please visit visit https://onramps.utexas.edu/. For more information on the Lee College South Liberty Education Center, please visit http://www.lee.edu/south-liberty/.

About the author

Julie Cavanaugh

Julie Cavanaugh

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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