The Dual Credit Risk In High Schools
We've Seen Something Similar with Credit Recovery Before
States throughout the country are pushing dual-credit programs in which high school students take college courses for both college and high school credit.
Their logic is admirable. Learn higher order concepts. Save time and money toward a degree by earning transferrable college credits while in public school so you don’t accumulate debt.
And yet because there’s no external validation in place to ensure that students are mastering “college-level” learning, the policy is fraught with problems and, worse yet, shaky promises to students that could turn out to be misleading at best.
We’ve recently seen a situation with similar overtones. Credit recovery was a big area of nonconsumption in high schools. Across rural and urban school districts, there were lots of students who needed to make up credits. But for a variety of reasons, there was not always a remedial class available for students who failed a course, which proved problematic as they moved toward their senior year of high school.
To meet the opportunity, districts followed their incentives and deployed online courses to boost graduation rates and make sure students leave with a high school diploma in hand. But because few states tie external, objective assessments for required high school courses to graduation, little attention was paid to the underlying learning happening in online credit recovery courses. While research suggests that online credit recovery hasn’t been the disaster that many media outlets have painted it to be, it hasn’t been transformational either.
Enter dual-credit programs.
There is some early research that suggests that “when done well” it can have positive outcomes for students. The rub is the phrase “when done well.”
For students who take concurrent college courses under the belief that those credits will help them graduate faster, they may have a rude awakening. That’s because first time students who transfer lose 43 percent of their credits on average. According to the General Accounting Office, “the average credits lost during transfer is equivalent to about four courses, which is almost one semester of full-time enrollment.” The transferring of credits is toughest it seems on community college students.