Friday, October 11, 2019

Two Degrees are better than One

At Thursday night’s School Board meeting, Susan Goetz, Director for Leadership, shared information with the board on expanding dual enrollment (DE) opportunities for our students.  The goal is to add enough courses that students could earn an associate’s degree by the time they graduate from high school.  DE allows students to receive both high school and college credit for the same course (hence, dual enrollment). 
IWCS already partners with Paul D. Camp Community College to provide several dual credit classes at Windsor and Smithfield.  The classes are popular with students but we are limited to the number of courses we can offer. The main reason we don’t offer more DE classes has to do with the credentials needed to teach these classes.  Community college instructors need 18 hours of graduate coursework in their content area.  Usually, teachers will take graduate courses in the field of administration, not their content area. 
We are looking at a possible plan that would increase the number of teachers qualified to teach DE courses.  Our recommendation is to pay for teachers to take classes to become DE credentialed.  They would need 18 credit hours, or 6 courses.  Tuition would be about $1,068 per class (using ODU tuition as an example) or $6,408 per teacher.  We will look at partnering with a university to offer classes or provide tuition reimbursement.  In addition, we would limit the number of teachers per subject area that IWCS will pay for courses.  To ensure teachers don’t get their degree and immediately leave, we would require them to remain in IWCS for 3-5 years after completing courses paid for by the division.
The good news is that we have several teachers that are very close to meeting the 18 credits required to teach DE, meaning we would not be starting from scratch to develop the faculty needed to make this happen.
There are still many unanswered questions:  Will there be any cost to take the DE classes?  Could students still get the degree if they didn't start the program until they were a sophomore?  We will be working VERY closely with Paul D. Camp as we continue to develop our plan.  Keep in mind that this is a long-range plan because it may take two years for a teacher to complete the 18 credits to qualify as a DE instructor.  That’s just the reality of the situation.  Because of this, I believe we can’t wait any longer to put something in place.  Our students should have the ability to graduate from high school with their school diploma and an Associate’s Degree from PDCCC.  And that should happen as quickly as possible.