JEFF MEADORS: Buzz about benefits of dual enrollment continues to grow

JEFF MEADORS: Buzz about benefits of dual enrollment continues to grow

It’s almost April 1, and that means one thing for Georgia students in grades 8 – 11: Full disclosure.

House Bill 186 mandates all public schools to notify students in these grades of all college options available to them by April 1 annually.

I was honored last week to get an invite from James Woodard and Rita Bucovaz to aid in meeting that deadline by speaking on college programs to a group of student associates at the Newton College & Career Academy.

NCCA associates posed good questions on Accel, HOPE, FAFSA, SAT tutorials, ACT practice, Carnegie Units, EOCTs, CTAE pathways, quality points, course weights, transfer equivalencies and just about every logistic of coordinating a dual enrollment cohort at the academy for the fall of 2014.

These students reflected engagement in bright futures with astonishingly clear expectations of themselves and public education. They are not, as much literature today might imply, lost — largely because NCCA offers professional guidance treating them as young adults, programs of high relevance to their interests, and a climate low on negative peer pressure and high on student support.

Many of them apprentice in local business and industry. Some are paid interns. All are in career pathways and are enamored with the way forward.

Dual credit programs have taken a front seat in the school choice arena as one of the best ways for eligible students to gain college credit while in high school, to boost class rank, and to elevate GPAs. Talks with counselors at Walnut Grove High and counselors, students, and parents at Rockdale County High School last week reveal continued momentum.

Many school systems have incorporated core dual enrollment classes, which qualify as rigorous in the new age of HOPE if taken at a University System of Georgia institution like Georgia Perimeter College, into system strategic plans.

Newton County calls for expanded dual enrollment in its Strategic Plan 2013 - 2018 as one way to increase student achievement. The system promises to “increase the percentage of students completing dual enrollment courses annually” to be monitored by central office directors, high school principals, assistant principals of instruction, counselors, and graduation coaches among others.

Rockdale County Public Schools drafted similar initiatives in 2012, and the state’s flexibility waiver from Adequate Yearly Progress, the College & Career Ready Performance Index, rewards public schools for student participation in dual enrollment.

The buzz is not unique to Georgia, where legislators have extended support through House Bills 400, 149, 186, 326, and 131. In 2014 alone the following states have passed legislation in support of dual enrollment programs, established new agreements, or issued official guidance: Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Montana, Ohio, Vermont, and Virginia.

Georgia’s House Bill 131 eliminated the edge AP classes formerly held on DE classes. School systems now weight DE final grades as they do AP or IB grades. For purposes of Georgia’s HOPE eligibility, however, these weights (DE, AP, and IB) are backed out and then a .5 quality point is added, so the benefit to students remains intact.

Students should seek guidance on dual enrollment from high school counselors now as only a handful of SAT and ACT test administrations remain to meet deadlines for fall 2014 admission.

Columnist Jeff Meadors may be reached at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com