Hopewell schools look to strengthen dual enrollment program
By CAITLIN DAVIS
Jan 4, 2014, 12:12
HOPEWELL — Students at Hopewell High School will get another class added to the dual enrollment program beginning in January. The added class means another opportunity for students to earn college credit before leaving the hallways of high school.
Hopewell City Public Schools has dual enrollment contracts with Richard Bland College, John Tyler Community College and most recently, Virginia State University. With the recent addition of VSU, the school system is able to offer a calculus class beginning in January.
At the School Board meeting on Dec. 12, Dr. Kim Evans, assistant superintendent for instruction, gave the board an update on the dual enrollment program, which was met with confusion as to why participation has declined over the years.
For students to enter the dual enrollment program, they must meet admission requirements, course requirements, with the possibility of passing a placement test, which Evans said is dependent upon the requirements of the college or university.
Teachers must also meet requirements before a dual enrollment class can even be offered at the high school. In order for a teacher to be able to teach a dual enrollment class, they must have their master’s degree with 18 credits in the area of study in which they are teaching.
Currently, there are two classes offered at the high school for dual enrollment, architectural drawing and psychology. Calculus will be added in January, with pre-calculus to be added in the fall of the next school year along with English.
Students also have more opportunities for additional course offerings with Hopewell High School’s sister high school, Clover Hill High School in Chesterfield.
Offering the dual enrollment classes at the high school also comes at minimal cost, however Evans said the cost is only minimal if there are teachers who are eligible to teach the courses. If not, the system has to pay the teachers at the university or college. The only cost incurred on the division at the current time is supplying the textbooks and materials for the courses.
Also, students can see a chunk taken out of their college costs. The Hopewell Education Foundation will pay for courses if the student continues with their course study and pursues their associate’s degree at John Tyler Community College.
Since 2001, 54 students have participated in the dual enrollment program with eight only making it through one semester. Evans said this was due to their GPA not meeting the requirements. With the 46 students left, three students completed the program and earned their associate’s degree.
Despite the numerous benefits that are associated with the dual enrollment program, Evans indicated the program has faced many challenges over the years, with declining course offerings and declining student enrollment.
Evans noted the challenges the program has faced with each passing school year are the limited number of qualified teachers, proper advising on dual enrollment versus advanced placement, passing the placement test and the lack of student interest.
School Board Vice Chairman Christopher Reber expressed his concern about the program, noting the local industries that partner with the high school should also be informed of the challenges of the dual enrollment program.
“They don’t understand why there’s kids in the pipeline. They just are getting frustrated,” Reber said. “… I think we need to look at shaping this program a little differently and marketing it a little differently to make it a little bit more broad to catch those who are perhaps not four-year university bound. There’s some work that we need to do.”
One solution Evans presented to the board was targeting students before they entered the high school but rather catch them in middle school. She said that students, who may have the interest and ability for the dual enrollment courses, may not even know they are available. Evans even suggested setting students on an academic plan in middle school, a plan they can take with them to Hopewell High.
Superintendent Dr. John Fahey also expressed his concern for the lack of participation in the dual enrollment program at Hopewell High, saying changes within the program are needed.
“We’ve got to change something to make it an attractive program ... because there’s no reason why our kids shouldn’t take advantage of that program if they have that interest,” Fahey said.
School Board member Larry Joyner could not hide his confusion in the lack of students having interest in the program, especially in terms of dollar signs.
“They do get college credit, don’t they?” Joyner said. “I’m looking at a real powerful point here. How about expense in college?”
One solution that was presented was additional promotion of the dual enrollment program. Evans said there are students, as well as parents, who do not know the benefits of being in the dual enrollment program or what classes are even offered. Evans also wanted to make sure there were students who took advantage of having their associate’s degree paid for.
“Identifying those students who may not be able to go to a four-year university for whatever reason and identify them early and advising them early in the right way through their academic career,” Evans said.
Fahey wants to change the culture at Hopewell High School, making it more of a stepping stone towards college.
“Having an early college high school at Hopewell High School where students have the opportunity to graduate with a diploma and an associate’s degree or many, many hours towards that degree,” Fahey said. “It’s going to take a lot of creative ideas and work with universities and community colleges.”
Whatever the solution, Reber made it clear nothing was going to change if the division continues to offer just two dual enrollment classes.
“This needs to be bolstered,” Reber said. “We need to put some money and some effort behind this.”