A Set of Lesson Plans From Early College Districts
As education leaders look to expand dual enrollment for high school students, they must pay close attention to staffing strategies.
Financial sustainability is key. Other top priorities may include upskilling the district’s teaching force, attracting new talent and providing incentives for qualified instructors to take on the challenge of teaching college-level courses.
In reviewing the approaches that various school districts are using to grow and stretch their corps of dual credit instructors, Jobs for the Future (now known as JFF) drew the following lessons.
» Weigh the costs and benefits of using high school adjuncts versus college faculty.
The best approach for each site will vary based on contextual factors such as state funding structures for dual enrollment and cost-sharing agreements between districts and postsecondary partners. It is important to bear in mind that K-12 teachers may need incentives and supports to teach college courses, especially as most of their workload shifts.
» Deploy qualified instructors strategically.
By using a systemwide lens, district leaders may be able to identify opportunities to make better use of teachers who already are qualified to teach dual credit courses as adjuncts. For example, teachers could leave their home campus for part of the day to teach a course at another school, or students could be transported to another high school to take classes not available at their own school.
Some school districts have tapped their middle school teachers who have a master’s degree in an academic content area to teach dual credit courses at a nearby high school. These types of strategic solutions require extensive coordination across schools and districtwide commitment to shared goals.
» Maximize a limited supply of instructors by using innovative approaches to time.
It may be possible to stretch a limited pool of dual credit instructors by asking them to teach college courses at a central location after school, on the weekends or during the summer. However, it’s important to realize that courses offered outside the standard school day are more likely to attract highly motivated students and those with fewer out-of-school obligations.
Part of the continuing challenge of transforming a traditional high school into an early college is redesigning the master schedule to ensure all students have access to the courses they need.
» Expand the ranks of qualified adjuncts by subsidizing the cost of graduate education for veteran teachers.
Districts may be able to widen their pool of dual credit instructors by providing financial assistance for high school teachers to obtain the graduate credits to qualify as college adjuncts. Many districts offer tuition reimbursement for teachers who pursue graduate degrees, and some require teachers to commit to delivering college courses for a minimum number of years upon completion.
» Design and deliver graduate courses in an accessible format tailored to current teachers.
Many high school teachers have master’s degrees in education or related fields but lack the 18 discipline-specific credits needed to teach college English, math or other core subjects. This group is well-positioned for upskilling to become college adjuncts. How-ever, attending classroom-based, semester-long graduate courses can be challenging on top of teachers’ already-full schedules. Some graduate universities have designed innovative solutions, such as self-paced, online “mini-master’s” programs or intensive summer programs.
(An expanded version of these lessons appears in a 2017 report by JFF, “Solving the Dual Enrollment Staffing Puzzle.”)
— SARAH HOOKER