I came to truly understand the power of dual enrollment programs — and the importance of our state supporting them — as a college professor, introducing new undergraduates to the standards of a college classroom.
One particular student stood out among those in my first-year composition course. It was in speaking with him after class that I first learned about dual-enrollment programs. My students were divided between local high school graduates who struggled with the readings and essays, and the private school students, who dominated class discussion with self-assured confidence. He was the exception to a troubling rule: Few of the strongest students so often came from local public schools.
Many of my local students had graduated at the top of their class and could not reconcile their high school success with the C’s they received on their first essay. Their critical writing experience was too limited. I spent most of my office hours reviewing their papers individually, and highlighting the difference between high school writing and undergraduate writing. Writing an essay that didn’t follow a formulaic model and (in this case) required an analysis of Aristotle’s rhetorical categories was entirely new to them.
To state the problem in simple terms: their high schools — even those advertised as college preparatory — had not prepared them to be effective learners at the college level. Our high schools tend to train students to be effective high school students. Both the students and the schools are evaluated based on standardized tests and ACT results.
To raise the mean score, it is most effective to focus on the lowest-scoring students. This is a reasonable and valid rationale. Aristotle himself would recognize the logic in this approach. As educators, we recognize that the gap between high school and the first year of college is wider than one summer. Louisiana recently joined a coalition of 22 states called PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) in order to develop more effective assessments in response to the Common Core. Involving the colleges in shaping strategies for college readiness is an essential step forward.
We should look to successful models like Dayton Early College in Ohio, where they are connecting the resources and standards of Ohio State University to students in the local school system. These programs have demonstrated their effectiveness and economic efficiency in preparing students for college. We should look to support and expand these programs so that they can continue to serve students who are prepared to engage in rigorous, accelerated learning.
director of instruction,
Bard Early College in New Orleans