Concurrent Choices Serving Different Purposes

​Michele Capps 

When the superintendent and high school principal in Murtaugh, Idaho, first thought about expanding course offerings in a new direction, they took advantage of several highly qualified and enthusiastic teachers to expose students to the excitement of the STEM fields.

The leaders of the 400-student school system built a dual enrollment program with nearby College of Southern Idaho that grants postsecondary credits to high schoolers for completing courses in physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology and allied health.

They’ve done so, says Michele Capps, Murtaugh’s superintendent, on the basis of “staff who are vested in the vision of rural students getting every opportunity available to them.” She adds: “Teachers have spent time getting their requirements met so they can offer dual credits in their high school.”

Last year, 18 students took college courses at their high school, and another 37 students took college classes online. Two students traveled 30 minutes to enroll in courses at College of Southern Idaho.

“With technology and the availability of dual credits, students in rural districts now have the same opportunity as students in large schools,” Capps says.

Various Aims
The excitement of building or expanding a dual credit program comes to the fore when educators consider the rich possibilities for their students. They pursue dual enrollment arrangements to serve varying purposes.

In Ohio, the Hilliard schools, a suburban district of 16,300 outside Columbus, wanted students to graduate high school with sophomore standing when they started college. The district focused its postsecondary offerings on the liberal arts coursework that most students would wind up taking in their freshman year: English, sociology, psychology and history. Faculty from Hilliard and Columbus State Community College led the courses.

“Dual credit programs deliberately target students who are not necessarily the top 10 percent,” says Mike McDonough, Hilliard’s deputy superintendent. “Students who were timid about AP are more willing to try the college course.”

Last year, more than 600 juniors and seniors in Hilliard City Schools participated in dual credit, collectively earning almost 5,800 college credits.

In the 72,000-student Davis School District, 15 miles north of Salt Lake City, Utah, the dual credit planners opted to broaden course options by adding career and technical classes on the collegiate level.

The district offers 87 concurrent classes, including computer sciences, health sciences, professional sales and paramedic certification. Last year, nearly 5,700 students earned more than 38,000 college credits, according to Holly Handy, the CTE pathways director in Davis.

Testing Waters
These programs also enable curious students to try out classes in subjects that might or might not become their academic majors. That prospect has its advantages.

“The idea was that if students get into college classes early, it decreases the amount of time they’re in college,” says Beth Rhoades, director of concurrent enrollment at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. Because students “change majors so many times, [taking college classes in high school] is a fantastic avenue to do soul searching in a safe environment.”