Administrators at Torrance schools like the new partnership with El Camino Community College so much that they’ve added new college classes – including engineering design and digital electronics – at their high schools during the school day.
“We see huge value of this, having kids get a leg in to that kind of rigor and expectation of college level work is phenomenal,” said Kati Krumpe, the chief academic officer for the Torrance Unified School District.
Last year, she said, about 200 Torrance students took dual enrollment classes. This year, about 125 more signed up. El Camino College certifies that the classes meet their requirements and that the school district’s teachers instructing the class have advanced degrees to qualify to be a community college teacher. The students earn high school and college credits.
Partnerships like this between school districts and neighboring community colleges are part of a growing movement by educators across the state to improve the transition between high school and college.
The California Community College Chancellor’s Office says 36 community colleges have informed their office of partnerships with area schools to offer dual enrollment classes. They include colleges in Los Angeles, Glendale, Fullerton, Santa Monica, and Irvine.
That’s 19 more campuses than a year ago. It took a state law to allow school districts and community colleges to enter into these partnerships because those institutions have separate boards of trustees that oversee their administration.
The growth has also resulted in some hiccups.
“We are not offering any courses this fall," because of a disagreement over the instructors, said Marisa Sarian, assistant superintendent at the Pasadena Unified School District.
The school district said ten Pasadena Unified teachers met the college’s requirements to teach dual enrollment classes last year, but Pasadena City College administrators asked the school district to renegotiate the dual enrollment agreement.
“Who hires them, who evaluates them, who do these teachers work for? Those are all things that need to be worked out with our faculty association,” said Terry Giugni, vice president of instruction at Pasadena City College.
He said the college’s faculty association would like their members to teach the dual enrollment classes on the high school campuses instead of school district teachers.
Giugni said he expects a new agreement to be reached in the coming months so that high school students can enroll in dual enrollment classes in the spring.
Dual enrollment courses were introduced to high schools after research showed that enrolling high school students in college level classes increases the chance that they’ll enroll in college and that they’ll earn a college degree.
Researchers examining dual enrollment classes are asking questions such as whether it’s better to have the course taught by a college instructor instead of a high school teacher or whether it’s better to have the students go to the college campus to take the class.
“If dual enrollment is living up to its promise of providing a college environment and an academically challenging opportunity for students to take courses in a subject area they might not be exposed to, then yes, I really do think these courses can – and as we see from the research really do – have positive effects on their participants,” said John Fink, a research associate at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College.
He said in California it’s likely schools will continue to add dual enrollment courses. School administrators say state officials will be measuring how well schools prepare students for college and career and dual enrollment classes is one way.