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Dual Enrollment Movement Seeks Bigger Role in Education

The first time Anthony Lloyd heard about a high school that supposedly offered students the chance to graduate with an associate degree, he balked at the idea because it sounded unreal.

“Honestly, I didn’t believe it,” Lloyd said of the high school, which he heard about from a friend who planned to enroll in the school.

“I was like, ‘What high school can give you an associate degree and a high school diploma at the same time?’” Lloyd said. “It sounded like one of those commercials that’s like a get-rich-quick scheme. I was like, ‘Alright, let me know how that works out.’”

Before experiencing the success himself, Anthony Lloyd said a dual enrollment program he was told about “sounded like one of those commercials that’s like a get-rich-quick scheme.”Before experiencing the success himself, Anthony Lloyd said a dual enrollment program he was told about “sounded like one of those commercials that’s like a get-rich-quick scheme.”

However, once his friend was accepted to the school and confirmed the school’s promise was real, Lloyd began to give the school — Bard High School Early College Baltimore — a second look.

Today, Lloyd not only stands to graduate from the high school this spring with an associate degree in general studies, but also won a full ride to attend Bard College, a well ranked, four-year private college in Annandale on Hudson, New York, where the average cost of attendance is just over $29,000.

Now Lloyd — who is poised to become the first in his family to earn a college degree — talks up Bard High School Early College Baltimore just as his friend did a year or so ago. Asked during a recent briefing on Capitol Hill what makes the high school distinct, Lloyd touted the school’s seminar-based courses and its emphasis on critical thinking.

He speaks of being introduced to philosophers whose names he could not pronounce and classes where students get the opportunity to critically analyze texts.

“When I found this school I was like, ‘Where has this been all my life?’” Lloyd said. “I was like, ‘Why did it take until 11th grade to find this school?’”

Lloyd said he wants to study education so he can “get back into the school system and basically get this opportunity out to everybody so everybody knows about it.”

“It’s changed my life completely,” Lloyd said of Bard High School Early College Baltimore. “Education was always a battle with me because it had to be a special kind of school for me to enjoy and come every day.”

Lloyd’s desire to make more students aware of dual enrollment schools like Bard is getting a boost thanks to a new coalition called the College in High School Alliance.

The goal of the alliance is to advocate for greater support for dual enrollment models at the state, federal and local level in order to improve educational outcomes, said Adam Lowe, executive director of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, or NACEP, which helped launch the alliance recently on Capitol Hill.

Lowe said the goals of the alliance are to develop and advance a shared federal policy platform regarding dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment and early college high schools.

“Particularly with the new administration and new Congress, this is a very critical time for that,” Lowe said.

Other goals of the alliance are to:

  • Help states establish the policy environments to develop, strengthen and expand dual enrollment opportunities.
  • Raise awareness of dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment and early college high schools, and their impact on student achievement.
  • Marshal existing resources and “cultivate new champions with diverse perspectives” to support the growth of dual enrollment programs.

Joel Vargas, vice president of school and learning designs at Jobs for the Future, a Boston, Massachusetts-based organization that focuses on building educational and economic opportunity for “underserved” populations, said there is a substantial body of evidence that dual enrollment has proven itself as an effective way to get more low-income and underrepresented students to graduate from high school, persist in college and complete college on time.

“We’re not just taking about kids that would have gone anyway,” Vargas said.

To bolster his point, Vargas cited a recent “intervention report” from the U.S. Department of Education’s “What Works Clearinghouse” that states dual enrollment programs were “found to have positive effects on students’ degree attainment (college), college access and enrollment, credit accumulation, completing high school, and general academic achievement (high school), with a medium to large extent of evidence.”

Vargas noted that the report found that 5 out of 35 dual enrollment studies were found to have meet the clearinghouse’s standards for being a rigorous study.

“That’s a lot of evidence for an intervention,” Vargas said. “This is a great thing to be doing.”

However, Vargas said the evidence is “uneven across the country.”

“I think it’s harder to pull off in higher tuition contexts,” Vargas said. “It’s really hard work and you need good partners to do it.

“Those will be the next generation of challenges to take this to scale further.”

Lowe said currently about a quarter of all students participate in some sort of dual enrollment program. Asked what the new alliance’s numerical goal is for dual enrollment, Lowe said “all.”

“All high school students need to be adequately prepared to succeed in college,” Lowe said, adding that one way for students to demonstrate that preparedness is to complete a college course in high school.

He said one of dual enrollment’s most salient features is that it changes the college aspirations of students and gets them to envision themselves as being capable of doing college work.

Lowe said there is a need for more higher education partners to participate in dual enrollment but acknowledged their motivations for doing so may vary based on the diversity of colleges and universities.

“What appeals to a Bard College is gonna be very different than a Columbus State Community College,” Lowe said. “For some institutions of higher education, doing this is a way to give back to the community.

“Or in some institutions this is a way of addressing an on-campus remediation problem, let’s deal with students by working with them in transition before they come to our campuses.

“In some cases, it’s providing students with advanced opportunities, because the high school students are bored and having ‘senioritis,’ and let’s give them a way of challenging themselves and advancing,” Lowe said. “I think it’s a wide range of rationales for why higher ed institutions should get involved.”

Jamaal Abdul-Alim can be reached at [email protected] or you can follow him on Twitter @dcwriter360.

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