No dual enrollment on Challenge Index this year
On the forms I have been sending to high schools this year for my annual Challenge Index, I said I would try to count local college final exams taken by their students, as well as the usual Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge exams, in calculating the rankings. Some high schools have been requesting this. I thought it might work as we move the annual list this year from newsweek.com to washingtonpost.com.
But having read the responses I have been getting from high school principals and advanced program coordinators, I have decided not to add this new element to the list this year. Many educators said it would be difficult to get the data I need about what are often called dual enrollment or concurrent enrollment course final exams.
I wanted to know, for instance, how long the exams were and whether free response questions were asked. Many high school officials did not know the answer to those questions and said the colleges often could not tell them without contacting each professor, something they did not have the time or resources to do. Some high school officials said they thought the local college offerings didn't match up to AP, IB or Cambridge and would lower the standard of the annual list.
I have been rating public high schools since 1998 based on their level of participation in college-level exams. I wanted to break away from rating high schools by average test scores, which measures not the quality of the school but the income levels of the parents. Looking at college level test participation was a way of assessing how hard school staffs work to prepare as many students as possible for college by having them take college level courses and exams.
Dual enrollment or concurrent enrollment courses taught by local college faculty are part of that national effort to raise high school standards, but those programs do not spend much time collecting and releasing information on what they are doing. Local colleges often do not tell the high schools much about the final exams they give their students. AP, IB and the Cambridge organization by contrast send each high school a detailed report, and release samples of their exams which have free response questions that require human graders.
I am not sure what to do about the difficulty in gathering information on dual enrollment. I am open to any and all ideas. Some major universities monitor these courses. They may be in a position to provide good data. But these are regional, not national systems. Their quality varies.
Some high school educators and college admission deans who have had close contact with AP and IB and with local dual enrollment programs say they are not comparable. An advanced programs coordinator for a Texas school district told me this month that "there is absolutely no comparison between the rigor of our AP and IB classes and our dual credit classes. Dual credit in many cases is not any more difficult than a regular-level class. The rigor just depends on the instructor that our junior college sends."
I am telling the high schools that I will not be sending them a second form to report their dual enrollment offerings, at least not this year. I don't want them using valuable staff time to try to dig the information out of the colleges as the spring deadline for the national list approaches. Well-funded high schools with extra staff would have an unfair advantage in that race, and I don't want that.
I know from the schools' answers to the main form which might be interested in trying to report their dual enrollment data. After I do more research, I may give them a chance to do so in the future. The absence of good information about dual and concurrent enrollment programs is a problem for all educators trying to improve the way we prepare students for college. I welcome comments here, or emails (firstname.lastname@example.org), from educators who work with these programs and understand their differences and similarities.
| January 21, 2011; 5:30 AM ET
Categories: Trends | Tags: AICE tests, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, concurrent enrollment, dual enrollment, washingtonpost.com Challenge Index
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