October 4, 2010
More and more high schools are offering dual-credit classes as a way to prepare students for the rigors of a college education.
According to the Chicago Tribune, dual-credit classes have become popular among Illinois high schools as a way to challenge teens and give them a taste of what the college classroom is like. These classes allow high school students to gain college credit while also fulfilling high school requirements. Students who complete the program, graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate degree.
Unlike Advanced Placement courses, dual-credit classes require advanced planning. According to Amarillo Globe-News, high school students begin planning their program at the end of eighth grade. The classes take place in a high school classroom, a local community college or online. Students in Highland Park Independent School District in Texas, for example, can take classes at Amarillo College for dual credit. High school students take two college courses each semester as well as a combination of summer courses offered at Highland Park High School, Amarillo College or online.
In addition to exposing students to higher education, a key point of the classes is to teach high school students how to study, said Becky Gaffney, a Highland Park teacher who facilitated an introductory biology dual-credit class. "They're all smart enough to do it. They're just not used to studying like they need to for a college class."
Although sometimes intimidating, most students seem to enjoy the college-level work. High school freshman Myles Smith said he took classes mostly for the challenge. He added, "It's also taking two years off of college. It's going to be more affordable."
Indeed, dual-classes are much cheaper than university courses. Lou Ann Seabourn, associate dean of instruction for Amarillo College, said the cost can vary, but usually hovers around $3,000 over four years for tuition, fees and books. The Standard Journal reported that students at Sugar-Salem High School pay $65 per college course. Joliet West High School students can take some college-level courses at Joliet Junior College for free, noted the Chicago Tribune. Courtney Purciarello, a senior at Joliet West, decided to take on the challenge of English 101 when she realized her tuition and all of her textbooks would be free. "I thought, 'I'm going to have to pay for the [class] in college anyway.' So if the high school offers it, well, it sort of fits perfectly," she told the Chicago Tribune.
In Illinois, the surge of dual-credit classes prompted state lawmakers to establish quality standards. High school students, for instance, must take a placement exam and high school teachers facilitating courses must have the same credentials as a college instructor.
Matt Vanover, spokesperson for the Illinois State Board of Education, said dual-credit classes are "a growing phenomenon." Sugar-Salem teachers and administrators told the Standard Journal that they, too, felt dual-credit courses were the future of education.
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"A two-for-one program," amarillo.com, September 27, 2010, Brenda Bernet
"College starting in high school," chicagotribune.com, October 3, 2010, Tara Malone
"Sugar-Salem turns up the heat on education," rexburgstandardjournal.com, September 24, 2010, Nate Sunderland