Wednesday, July 25, 2012


By Kimberly Beltran SI&A Cabinet Report

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 :: Analysis of a project designed to promote college entry for high school students least likely to go showed that career-focused dual enrollment programs can provide positive outcomes for these often unprepared and underachieving pupils.

The three-year Concurrent Courses initiative, launched in 2008 and funded by the James Irvine Foundation, partnered high schools with colleges to create dual enrollment programs – high school students take college courses and earn college credit – and make them available to low-income youth who struggle academically or who are from minority college populations.

A just-released study of the initiative, conducted by the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University, found that among the 3,000 students enrolled in the program, participants were, on average, more likely to graduate from high school, transition to a four-year college (rather than a two-year college), accumulate more college credits and persist in postsecondary education. They were also less likely to take basic skills courses in college.

“These are important findings because many people have long thought of these programs as avenues only for high-achieving students to get a head start on college,” said Hilary McLean, deputy director at the Linked Learning Alliance, which was founded by a grant from the Irvine Foundation. “But this initiative provides evidence that any student can benefit from the experience of a dual enrollment program. It shows that this type of program really can be a game changer for students who are struggling academically or from populations historically underrepresented in higher education.”

In recent years, educators and policymakers have become increasingly interested in the potential of programs like dual enrollment to improve educational outcomes for a broader range of students. At the same time, there is growing evidence that giving the programs a career focus adds relevance and interest and can re-engage students who may not see themselves as being on a path to college and career.

Under the initiative, eight partnerships were awarded a share of $4.75 million to expand CTE-oriented dual enrollment participation to low-income and underrepresented students while combining rigorous, college-level academics and career/technical subject matter. Other conditions of the program were to create strong collaborative relationships between college and secondary partners, and collect data on students’ secondary and postsecondary outcomes.

Courses offered broached a variety of career fields, including healthcare, multi-media, teaching and renewable energy.

Researchers looked at the performance of students in the dual enrollment courses as well as the program’s influence on the students’ grade point average, graduation rates, college choices and college performance.

While there was no significant difference in the grade point averages of students in the program and their district peers, graduation rates were higher for dual enrollees than their peers, the analysis found.

Following members of the cohorts who graduated from high school in 2009 and 2010, statistics showed that while the dual enrollees enter college at rates similar to students outside the program, they enroll at four-year colleges at a rate two percentage points above their district peers.

Students taking part in the dual enrollment courses also persisted in their postsecondary studies at a higher rate, and they accumulated more college credits than the comparison group – and the advantages in credit accrual grew as the students progressed through college.

Among several benefits of the Concurrent Courses initiative, the report notes, were the establishment of new college-high school partnerships and the expansion of existing ones – as well as a better understanding between educators at both levels of what was needed to help the students succeed.

Qualified high school teachers teaching college introductory courses could see how unprepared their students were for the material, stated the report, and college faculty teaching visiting high school students shared their observations with their high school counterparts.

“This led to school-wide and cross-sector conversations about how to improve students’ skills and facilitate a better transition from high school to college,” researchers wrote.

Broadening the Benefits of Dual Enrollment

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