BY MARTIN KICH
What follows is the third section of the most recent higher education report produced by the Ohio Conference of AAUP. John McNay, the President of the Conference, and Sara Kilpatrick, the Executive Director of the Conference, deserves kudos for doing the bulk of the work on this report. The report has been distributed to all of the members of the Ohio legislature and the state’s major newspapers, several of whom have done follow-up investigative reporting on the topics covered in the report.
The previous Ohio Higher Ed Report was similarly published in sections to this blog. The links to those posts, as well as to the two posts in this series, are provided at the end of this post.
COLLEGE CREDIT PLUS & COMPETENCY-BASED EDUCATION
Rather than pursue a strategy that encourages reinvestment in public higher education, Ohio instead appears to be moving in a direction that could compromise educational quality and churn out degrees of less certain value to students and employers.
“Time to degree” has become a mantra that overcomes other measures of academic quality and success as more students with more credentials of any kind are sought. Less education has gradually become misunderstood as better education and is being driven by two flawed approaches.
College Credit Plus (CCP)
One is the much celebrated, dramatic expansion of dual enrollment or College Credit Plus. Under this program, students as young as 7th and 8th grade can take courses at a community college, university, or at the high school with either a professor or a “certified” high school teacher. The problem is that high school is not college and, especially if a dual-enrollment course is taught in the high school by a high school teacher, there is no guarantee that completion of such a course means that students have learned the material at a college level.
A particular problem in high schools is having a class composed of some who are dually-enrolled and others who are not. There is no way to make this into a college classroom when it really is not. High school students, especially those below the senior level, are not like college students. A collection of 15-, 16-, and 17-year-olds are normally at a different stage of intellectual and social development than are college students. Treating high school students like college students does not always do them a favor.
Moreover, while it is true that some students are successful in dual-enrollment programs, this almost always is the “low hanging fruit”: that is, by and large they are students who would be successful with or without dual enrollment.
High school courses that were once viewed as “college prep” are now being seen as actual college courses. This observation is not meant as a criticism of high school teachers, who often teach more classes than college faculty and have a myriad of extracurricular responsibilities. They typically lack the research agenda and the requisite training that enables college faculty to introduce best practices in the field.
In information provided by the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE), CCP students had a .5 greater GPA than traditional undergraduates who took the same courses. Maybe so, but it does not make clear whether that CCP GPA is in only one, two or three CCP courses versus students in an undergraduate curriculum taking many more credits and a variety disciplines (that would be comparing apples and oranges). If CCP students are receiving higher grades than undergrads, and most CCP courses (about 50%) are being taught by high school teachers at the high school, it suggests that those CCP courses may not be as rigorous as the typical undergraduate education. As a result, we cannot assume that the students are learning the material at a college level, or that these courses sufficiently prepare them for subsequent courses.
Again, this isn’t to criticize our high school teachers. Teaching college courses is not what they were trained to do. They do not have the same kind of educational background and research requirements that make faculty experts in their fields, just as faculty do not have the expertise to teach high school classes. The best thing that our high schools can do is fully prepare students for college, not substitute for it.
The ODHE also suggests that these are “free” classes for the students and their families. Of course, this is not true. Both the high schools and the colleges are paying a price for this, as are the taxpayers who have to face increased costs in their school districts. It is not free; it is simply cost-shifting.
Further, little thought seems to be focused on the financial impact this is having on how Ohio’s universities operate. Large enrollment undergraduate courses—in particular, “core” or “general education” courses—provide the revenue to support upper division courses and graduate programs. Certainly, we need to focus on student success, but it is not in any of our students’ interests to undermine the financial stability of our public research universities.
CCP is coming dangerously close to infringing upon the state-guaranteed benefits of a complete high school education. Instead of streamlining education, the state should be focused upon adequately funding all levels of education, including substantial reinvestment in higher education, so that students are receiving a complete education with less debt.
Less education is not better for our students, but that is what CCP is falsely promising. We should not be pennywise and pound foolish.
Lastly, many of the most vocal supporters of dual-enrollment programs are also very vocal supporters of charter schools. But if the main argument for charter schools is that our public schools are not preparing students adequately to succeed in the workplace and in college, then it is incoherent to argue that those same public schools should be offering college courses.
Previous Post in This Series:
2017 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 1: https://academeblog.org/2017/05/22/education-first-ohio-higher-education-report-for-2016-2017-part-1/.
2017 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 2: https://academeblog.org/2017/05/24/education-first-ohio-higher-education-report-for-2016-2017-part-2/
Links to 2015 Ohio Higher Education Report
2015 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 1: https://academeblog.org/2015/06/20/2015-ohio-higher-education-report-part-1/
2015 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 2: https://academeblog.org/2015/06/20/2015-ohio-higher-education-report-part-2/
2015 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 3: https://academeblog.org/2015/06/21/2015-ohio-higher-education-report-part-3/
2015 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 4: https://academeblog.org/2015/06/21/2015-ohio-higher-education-report-part-4/
2015 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 5: https://academeblog.org/2015/06/24/2015-ohio-higher-education-report-part-5/
2015 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 6: https://academeblog.org/2015/06/27/2015-ohio-higher-education-report-part-6/.