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Margaret Mia


Concurrent Enrollment and Teacher Credentials | Inside Higher Ed

OK, so the title is a bit dry. But the subject matters.

“Concurrent enrollment” refers to college courses taught in high schools, usually by high school teachers. (It’s juxtaposed to “dual” enrollment, which sometimes refers to high school students taking college classes on a college campus. Confusingly, sometimes “dual” enrollment refers to both kinds.) It has been shown to improve rates of subsequent college matriculation and graduation, particularly for low-income students and students of color. It’s one of the few reliable parts of community college enrollment that has actually grown over the last several years.

At its best, it solves several issues. By the senior year of high school, many students have fulfilled most or all of their graduation requirements. College classes can fill the gap nicely. Concurrent enrollment takes transportation barriers off the table; classes are taught in the building where they already are. Concurrent enrollment can also help students who wonder if they’re really “college material” to discover that they are.

Still, as concurrent enrollment has grown, a few issues have become apparent. For today, I’ll focus on teacher credentials.

Degree requirements to teach college-level classes vary by state. In my state, the official rule is that “a majority” of the faculty must have a master’s degree or higher. In practice, most colleges tend to stick to a master’s degree requirement in fields in which they’re relatively plentiful and clearly relevant, like English, history or math. Colleges tend to be more lenient in fields like automotive technology or cybersecurity, where industry experience matters more.

High school teachers have faced different requirements. In public schools, they have to be certified, which involves formal instruction in how to teach. (Most college professors never undergo that training. I never did.) But they may not need master’s degrees in their fields. Many who do get master’s degrees get them in education rather than the subject they teach.

When they’re teaching high school courses, that’s not an issue. When colleges try to enlist high school teachers to teach college courses, things become trickier.

To be fair, some high schools have some teachers who have master’s degrees or higher in the field in which they teach. In those cases, issues only arise when a given teacher leaves. But scaling up concurrent enrollment programs to ensure that, say, every public high school student has access to it if they want it would require far more than the occasional exception.

Having said all of this, I know that my state isn’t the first to face this issue.

So, a question for my wise and worldly readers. How does your state handle the question of teacher credentials for concurrent enrollment courses? And do you see a better way?

As always, I can be reached via email at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com, and, at least for now, on Twitter @deandad.


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