dual enrollment: A professors balancing act
At the 2010 Conference for Composition and Communication Conference (CCCC) in Louisville, Kentucky, I had somewhat of an epiphany. See, the CCCC Executive Committee had begun studying issues concerning the teaching of writing as dual credit/concurrent enrollment in high schools. Some questions that emerged from these discussion include: What have been the advantages of such programs at your institution? What challenges or concerns do you and your colleagues have with dual enrollment? What procedures/programs have you instituted that have improved the teaching or administration of dual enrollment? What areas deserve further study? During the open business meeting we self-selected town meeting groups, and I chose the one that dealt directly with the concerns delineated above. At my table were several university professors and my own department chair from the community college where I adjunct online. I happen to teach not only First Year Composition (FYC) online through the college but also Advanced Placement (AP) Language and Composition and both dual enrollment FYC at the high school level.
When introducing ourselves, we mentioned only our name and affiliation; group members tended to assume I was a full time college faculty member just like them. Our discussion of dual credit/concurrent enrollment began with mild concerns and escalated somewhat. Some concerns that arose included the differences between state monies given to the institutions for number of students and monies given to the public school districts for students enrolled in dual credit/concurrent enrollment courses.
Dual credit/concurrent enrollment courses are seen as cash cows and in a recent discussion with my high school administrator, he said another local public high school netted over $75,000 yearly for the dual credit program. The professors at my table were concerned about the maturity level between high school aged students and college aged adults and felt the transition from high school into college is weakened by dual credit/concurrent enrollments. While some states like Washington use dual credit to entice at-risk students to try college courses, some of the professors were concerned about the drastic age difference between students, citing 14 and 15 year olds being in courses with 50 year olds.
Of all the arguments set forth by this group, the largest were why are these high school teachers usurping our students and consequently our course numbers and who are these teachers and what is the curriculum?
While I sat by quietly and listened, I was struck by the disconnect between dual enrollment students and the institutions that supposedly support these programs. In some ways, with all due respect, I was seen as the enemy—an educator who steals their students and can't be as intelligent and pedagogically sound as they are because, Heaven forbid, I choose community college and I choose high school.
An Examination of the Framework
A concern of the institution is the importance of a rigid programmatic assessment, and while I realize that not all adjuncts have composition training and experience in post secondary rhetoric and composition, I argue that dual credit enrollment in First Year Composition is very much supportive of the open-door model of quality education. Much like the standardization of national and state certification programs for public school teaching, dual enrollment instructors should be required to maintain some sort of stringent approval. Currently, Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) in Arizona requires proof of a masters degree in education or a certain number of graduate courses in English, the completion of a 3 credit non-degree course that familiarizes the instructor with the college, and approval from the school's administrator. Colleagues on a social network run by Jim Burke, the author of The English Companion, argue for a clearer proof of instructor credentials. Students (and their parents) enter into an agreement with the institution that the students will complete college-level writing work, and the districts enter into an agreement that, through the instructor’s dual enrollment course, they will offer a rigorous college writing experience. This economic contract is upheld predominantly by the instructor hired by the district who may or may not be as qualified as the institution hopes.
A contested puzzle therefore emerges where a disconnection in communicative alignment between each program widens the pedagogical gap between the dual enrollment students and the institution. At the 2010 Conference for College Composition and Communication, the town meeting addressed the following:
The CCCC Executive Committee is studying issues concerning the teaching of writing as dual-credit/concurrent enrollment in high schools. What have been the advantages of such programs at your institution? What challenges or concerns do you and your colleagues have with dual enrollment? What procedures/programs have you instituted that have improved the teaching of administration of dual enrollment? What areas deserve further study?
While this is an ongoing discussion in 4Cs, I argue that from my perspective, the dual enrollment courses are often more rigorous than traditional First Year Composition taught to traditional freshman. When I began adjuncting, the curriculum I inherited (English 101 specifically) was terribly outdated. FYC was taught like a correspondence course (I teach online), so a colleague and I revamped the course from the ground up.
The institutions must critically examine the gaps that have emerged in education. David Jolliffe, former chief reader of the College Board’s AP Language and Composition exam and Arkansas State University professor, asks the hard questions: "What reading and writing abilities and skills distinguish student performance at the primary, elementary, secondary and post secondary levels?" (2010, vii). The new national Common Cores Standards Initiative attempts to define levels of student performance and achievement in high school composition that begin to address some of the concerns of not only developing a common approach to composition studies in dual enrollment and traditional high school courses but also the institutionally held courses.
The way in which the partnership between institution and school district approaches dual enrollment must change. Standardization between states does not exist and Karp et al (2005; 2007) points out that some institutions offer dual enrollment for free while others decisions on tuition are made statewide. Different states and their sliding scale funding can offer various levels of tuition coverage. Due to the financial assistance and convenience of dual enrollment, dual enrollment is a popular approach to the open door model. While Karp discusses the lack of effective dual enrollment programs and (with Bailey, 2003) examines 45 different articles and reports on dual enrollment that seem to suggest there's no difference between the success of college students who either dual enrolled or not, my own examination of Rio Salado Community College, one of the two institutions for which I teach FYC, found that in 2008 (our last set of data) shows that 58% of the 4,589 dual enrollment students continued into a full time university program while another 35% continued in the Maricopa County Community College District after achieving their high school diplomas. Of the dual enrollment population only 7% either went to college out of state of did not continue to purse higher education at that time (personal communication, D. Sweely, January, 27, 2011). For the population of students with whom I most closely work, dual enrollment affords these students a door in which to enter the formalized higher education; as a highly qualified adjunct, dual enrollment, and high school educator, I contend that the perceptions help by both higher education and some full time college faculty aren’t necessarily accurate.