As a former principal of Middle College High School, Memphis, TN, I learned early that the college experience for high school students yields far reaching and long lasting benefits. Additionally dual enrollment is the catalyst for college affirmation. The belief system that college attainment is a rite of passage sends a clear message to students and their families that learning is seamless and achievable. Therefore, college becomes that transformational mantra in high school. Students who enrolled in college courses learn to think critically, respect the views of others, broaden their perspectives, prioritize their time, manage multiple assignments, adhere to deadlines, and conduct research.
Written By: Joyce C. Mitchell, Director Pre K-16 Innovations and Reform, Memphis City Schools
Memphis’s Middle College and Hollis F. Price high schools had received accolades for moving their students through the educational pipeline from high school to college. The graduation rate and dual enrollment data propelled both schools into public awareness. However, the dual enrollment access had been restricted primarily to a few schools. As part of the district’s high school reform agenda, the superintendent included dual enrollment as a strategy for increasing rigor in all schools. My role as academic director was to introduce these dual enrollment opportunities to all students in the Memphis City School District.
If the dual enrollment program was value added, then how do we provide equity and access for all students? The answer to that question provided the impetus for accelerating our efforts with an intentional plan to forge partnerships with the multiple universities in our city. The district provided a budget to ensure that the resources were there to support the initiative.
Dual Enrollment was not a new concept to the Memphis City Schools District. Students have historically taken advantage of dual and joint enrollment opportunities through programs offered at area colleges and universities. For over 20 years, students enrolled in Middle College High School at Southwest Tennessee Community College (STCC) have taken courses offered through Dual Enrollment. Since 2005, students enrolled at Hollis F. Price Middle College at LeMoyne-Owen College (LOC) have also participated in the early college initiative. However, Dual Enrollment was not a Districtwide program until recently.
Because the Memphis City Schools District is dedicated to promoting the academic achievement of ALL students, our Office of High School Initiatives offered all eligible juniors and seniors the opportunity to earn college credit hours while completing their high school requirements. Most states, including Tennessee, recognize the power of dual enrollment in linking students’ high school and college experiences by allowing students to earn college credits during their high school years. This innovative program provides students with a seamless transition into their college years and gives them a jump-start on earning a college degree; all while allowing students to earn the high school credits they need in order to graduate.
Funded through the Tennessee Lottery and administered by the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, the Dual Enrollment Program encourages students to explore post-secondary education and also enhances the high school curriculum by challenging students to accelerate achievement. This state funding is supplemented by the Memphis City Schools.
In 2008, Memphis City Schools, partnered with Christian Brothers University, LeMoyne-Owen College, Southwest Tennessee Community College, Tennessee Technology Center at Memphis, and The University of Memphis, to provide an opportunity for all eligible students to earn college credit while simultaneously earning a high school diploma. This Early College Program gave high school students a jump-start on a college education and a career by allowing students to take college and technical courses while still enrolled in high school. This rigorous program accelerates learning in a collegiate environment providing powerful motivators for students to work hard and meet intellectual challenges.
Early College courses are taught on the college campus, the technology center, or at the high school by a college professor or a secondary teacher who is credentialed under Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) as an adjunct professor. Students are enrolled in college or technical courses with a combination of college and high school students or in “cohort” or “restricted” classes. Dual Enrollment courses blend the high school and college work into a single, coherent unit of college-level work that meet the requirements for both high school and college credits.
All qualifying students may enroll in college level courses that are conducted at the high school during the school day and are taught by a bona fide college professor or a licensed SACS approved adjunct secondary teacher. In addition, qualifying 11th and 12th grade students may enroll in college level courses that are conducted at a state accredited institution of higher education.
- To be eligible for enrollment in the Early College/Dual Enrollment program, a student must be a Tennessee resident and have completed the tenth grade and earned an ACT composite score of 19 or higher.
- The Tennessee Dual Enrollment Grant pays tuition of $300 per semester, or $600 per year, for eligible students to earn college semester hours and high school credits while completing high school graduation requirements.
- To maintain eligibility to participate in the Tennessee Dual Enrollment Grant Program, students must maintain a minimum 2.75 college G.P.A.
- Students and/or their parents/guardians must be willing to provide transportation to the college or university sites for courses not taught on a high school campus.
- Student must be willing to participate in coursework offered during the school day, after regular school hours, or on Saturdays.
- Attendance: Students are expected to adhere to the college calendar and attend all scheduled classes and required study sessions. Regardless of the reason or nature of the absence, students are responsible for the work covered by the instructor and for timely submission of all assignments.
- Discipline: Students are expected to adhere to the MCS Code of Conduct, as well as the college’s policy of student conduct.
- Grades: To maintain eligibility to participate in the Dual Enrollment program, students are expected to maintain a 2.75 cumulative college grade point average.
- Textbooks and supplies: Some MCS funds are available to assist students in purchasing required textbooks. Fee waivers for textbooks are available for students who qualify. All books must be returned at the end of the semester.
- Withdrawals: Students may not withdraw from any college course without written permission from an administrator or counselor. Should student withdraw without consent, the student may be responsible for any costs including the cost of tuition.
Years of experience dictate that support is a necessary condition for success of dual enrollment. The cohort or restricted classes have built in support systems in the high school schedule. For example, the adjunct professor teaches on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays, leaving Tuesdays and Thursdays for academic support. Students who take courses on the college campuses are encouraged to take advantage of the college’s Math, Reading, and Writing labs and Tutoring Services. The district funds academic coaches. Several of our high schools have hired college career advisors to monitor the students who are enrolled in college classes.
The deputy superintendent of MCS, Dr. Irving Hamer, has provided increased support and funding to sustain this initiative. Although we exceeded the dual enrollment target of 20%, the expectation is to continue to increase the numbers. The Tennessee Diploma Project specified that students may earn a Diploma of Distinction by earning 12 hours of college courses. Dr. Kriner Cash, MCS Superintendent, has also included Dual Enrollment as part of the “Cradle to Career Roadmap” Reform Agenda. In addition it fits into the Memphis Talent Dividend Program that seeks to add $1 billion to the Memphis economy by increasing the number of students earning a college degree by just 1%.
Approximately 1,000 students from 27 MCS high schools and two charter high schools are enrolled in dual enrollment courses at 6 universities. There is also an increase in the number of on-line college courses through the Tennessee Regents On-line Degree Program. MCS requires all rising 10th graders to take one on-line course prior to graduation from high school. The on-line courses appear to be challenging for students and we need to provide additional layers of support as well. Some schools are providing access to labs during the day with a teacher of record to help students with the pacing and content of the college course.
Yes, dual enrollment is still an untapped option for many students. Using the Early College Transition Grant, we will continue to communicate the value of and access to college course for high school students