There must be a better way to continue to offer a wide range of dual-credit courses than the new requirements established by the Higher Learning Commission.
The regional organization that determines accreditation for postsecondary schools in 20 states including Indiana plans to strengthen degree requirements for high school teachers of dual-credit courses — those which count as college or university credit as well as toward a high school diploma. Under the guidelines to take effect in September 2017, the teachers would need a master’s degree in the subject area of the course they’re teaching or 18 hours in that subject if they have a master’s that isn’t in the discipline being taught.
The changes would appear to come from a worthwhile goal, that of making sure the college credit earned from high school courses comes from as rigorous a course of study as would occur on campus. But this is not the way to reach that goal.
Two key issues suggest better paths should be followed.
High school educators say the changes would greatly limit the number of dual-credit courses that would be taught in the high schools. That could be a potential major setback to college affordability. Instead of getting hours of credit, for little to no money while in high school, the students would be required to pay for the courses after they arrive on campus. This will slow time to graduation for many students and cost them more to get a degree. New rules should help rather than hinder students in completing their degrees on time.
In addition, the new degree requirement won’t necessarily guarantee academic rigor when compared with years of experience teaching the subject matter. A high school teacher with 20 years experience transferring knowledge to students often will be much better equipped than a teacher who simply has earned a master’s degree in a particular subject but lacks the time in the classroom.
So what would be a better way? Output over input.
This is an area that should be evaluated based on student results, rather than teacher credentials. High school teachers empowered to teach students a college-level course should be measured based on how well the students do after reaching the postsecondary level. Teachers whose students stumble or fail when they reach the next level in the discipline they were taught should not be teaching dual-credit courses no matter what degrees they have. Those whose students routinely succeed should be. Colleges and universities must have the means of measuring the differences.
That kind of teacher evaluation would be meaningful. Measure the results of the teaching, rather than specific degree of the teachers.