A Comparison of Learning Outcomes for Dual-Enrollment Mathematics Students Taught by High School Teachers versus College Faculty

By Hebert, Laura | Community College Review, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview

A Comparison of Learning Outcomes for Dual-Enrollment Mathematics Students Taught by High School Teachers versus College Faculty


Hebert, Laura, Community College Review


Dual enrollment allows students to earn college credit while concurrently enrolled in high school. Transferability of the credit is key concern, as some institutions discriminate between credits earned in courses taught by college faculty and those taught by high school teachers. This study tracked students who enrolled in dual-enrollment mathematics courses during a five-year period at a large, multicampus community college in Florida and found that students who had high school teachers for dual-enrollment mathematics courses earned significantly (p<.01) better grades in subsequent coursework at the state universities than those taught by college faculty. Discussion of findings is included.

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Dual enrollment, an accelerated mechanism that allows high school students to enroll in college courses while concurrently enrolled in high school (Title XVI, Florida Statutes, 1999), is available in 47 states, 21 of which have comprehensive programs where the state subsidizes the tuition for the courses and students receive credit toward both college and high school graduation (Education Commission of the States, 2001). Considerably flexible by design, dual enrollment courses can be taught on high school or college campuses, by high school teachers or college faculty members, and may take place before, during, or after normal high school hours. Depending on local agreements, program logistics or statutes, such programs may also be called dual credit or concurrent enrollment; however, the basic premise of providing postsecondary enrollment options to high school students remains the same. Unlike those students enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) courses, dual enrollment students do not need to take a test administered by an external source to qualify for the college credit. In AP courses "a tremendous premium is placed on one day's performance" (Harkins, 1998, p. 60). The awarding of credit through dual enrollment is based upon the entire course, "giving teachers many opportunities to evaluate learning" (p. 62).

Studies show that dual enrollment partnerships are beneficial to students, parents, high schools, and postsecondary institutions alike (Greenburg, 1989). Motivated students earn college credit in high school, parents realize substantial financial savings, high schools are able to offer courses that might otherwise not be available to students, and colleges gain access to some of the high schools' brightest students.

While the concept is simple, it is not without problems. The premise of dual enrollment programs has been that motivated high school students could build a transcript of college coursework "that would move students through the baccalaureate degree process quicker" (Windham, 1997, p. 9). However, from the start there has been "increasing concern about the willingness of colleges to accept the credit earned ..." (Wilbur & LaFay Jr., 1978, p. 23). "If students have to repeat the courses they took as dual enrollment students once they enroll at a university, then the acceleration aspect of dual enrollment is lost" (Windham, 1997, p. 10). If credits cannot be easily transferred, the intent of the program cannot be realized.

Generally, acceptance of credits earned through dual enrollment can only be guaranteed at the institution (or in the case of Florida, the state system) that offers the program. In fact, a primary limitation of dual enrollment continues to be transferability of credit. Greenburg (1989) found "There is no guarantee that credits will be accepted at other institutions" (p. 25). "The college credits earned by students ... are transferable only to the extent that other colleges are willing to accept them" (p. 29) and "... the transferability of the college credits earned by the high school students depends on the articulation the community college has been able to arrange with four-year institutions" (p. 36). Policymakers across the country are raising concerns, as some students are finding "concurrent enrollment credits earned while they were in high school will not transfer" (Boswell, 2001, p. …

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