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Voinovich School evaluations reinforce potential of dual-enrollment courses in rural high schools

Daniel Kington
December 7, 2016

Three Voinovich School faculty and professional staff members discussed the success of dual enrollment courses in Appalachian high schools last month at a national conference on rural education.

Senior project manager Margaret Hutzel, associate professor Marsha Lewis, and research associate Daniel Kloepfer spoke during the 2016 National Rural Educational Forum and 108th National Rural Education Association (NREA) Convention and Research Symposium. The event was hosted in Columbus by the NREA and Battelle for Kids (B4K). They discussed the success of two programs they are evaluating, which offer dual-enrollment courses in Appalachian schools.

The Dual Enrollment Access in Mathematics using the Flipped Format to Increase Student Achievement (DEAMFISA) program, serves 13 southeastern Ohio school districts; the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative Personalized Learning Network Straight A Grant (OAC-PLN) serves 27.

“Both programs have been really effective,” Lewis said. “We can safely say that they’ve achieved their stated impact goals and in some areas exceeded them. They’re having real impact.”

The most recent set of evaluations show very encouraging results. Through the DEAMFISA program, 11 credentialed teachers offered 36 dual enrollment courses in which at least 96 individual students received college mathematics credit. Meanwhile, 90 teachers have been credentialed through the OAC-PLN program, thus greatly increasing students’ access to dual enrollment courses.

“The institutional value, in terms of the teachers who are now credentialed to teach dual enrollment classes, is something that’s going to be continually adding value,” Lewis said. “After a teacher is credentialed one time, they can continue teaching dual enrollment courses indefinitely. It’s sustainable.”

The Voinovich School faculty and staff members invited teachers who participated in the programs to share their on-the-ground experiences during the panel presentation. Julie Haines of the Bloom-Vernon Local School District in Scioto County and Robert Krauss of the Manchester Local School District in Adams County volunteered to share their experiences.

“We thought it would be far more beneficial for the audience to hear from teachers who are offering these courses in the high school, who are going through the credentialing process and balancing everything,” Hutzel said.

“And it was,” Kloepfer added. “It turned out to be a really engaging discussion between the audience and the teachers, because as we asked questions of the teachers, folks in the audience started chiming in with their own questions, and the discussion took off from there.”

The Voinovich School team is optimistic that their panel presentation inspired educators in the room to take on the challenge of offering dual enrollment courses.

“The audience was able to walk away knowing that, although there might be initial challenges, like working with universities, for example, it is possible to overcome those barriers and see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Kloepfer said.

The national focus of the conference made the conversation particularly productive, Lewis said: “All those who attended our session were from other states that are not really as far along in providing dual credit as Ohio is, so they had many questions for the teachers about how dual enrollment is working here.”

The group emphasized the importance of sharing their experience.

“In any innovative project, you want to learn, so that if you meet the stated impact goals, you can more effectively replicate and scale-up the project,” Lewis said. “Part of our job is to capture the learning as well as the outcomes, so if somebody wanted to take, for instance, the personalized learning network, and replicate it on a larger scale, they might be able to anticipate or avoid some of the hurdles.”

Offering more dual enrollment courses nationwide, the group stressed, would have an important impact on the accessibility of higher education. Tuition and the difficulty of balancing work and school represent financial barriers for many students, while high schools in low-income districts are often unable to prepare students for the rigor and demands of college. Meanwhile, many students have ties to their homes and families that prevent them from moving away for school. These dynamics have presented a particular challenge for Appalachian students, and the situation has only become amplified in recent years, as tuition costs have continued to rise. However, dual enrollment courses at high schools can partially alleviate some of these issues.

“The cost of obtaining college credit is covered for students while they’re in high school, and in these dual enrollment programs they can complete college credit at their high schools, which allows them to continue to be engaged with their peers; they don’t necessarily have to drop out of band or football,” Hutzel said. “We’ve got some students who are leaving high school with up to two years of college credit for free.”

This makes it easier for students to attend college at a lower cost, which, in turn, makes it more likely that students will go on to complete a post-secondary degree. However, as Kloepfer noted, what students valued most about the courses did not seem to be the ability to save money.

“Many of the students just enjoyed the experience of taking college-level courses and experiencing the rigor that they’re going to have to go through when they get to college,” he said. “They were more interested in gaining that experience than saving money, as their first stated benefit.”

Hutzel said that hearing the evaluation’s findings on student perspectives was valuable to the panel’s audience.

“The audience was able to take away the immense value to students that the experience of these dual enrollment courses provides,” she said.

Both evaluation projects are ongoing. Read the most recent report from the DEAMFISA project, and read the most recent report from the OAC-PLN project.