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School stresses college credits with goal of 9 units by graduation

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One Whiteland Community High School student started the school year by enrolling in courses that could earn college credit.

The teen planned to take five Advanced Placement courses, which could count for college credit if the student passed the exams at the end of the school year.

But as the school year progressed, the college-level courses and the prospect of paying for, taking and passing five exams was too much. The student asked to drop two of the AP courses and instead take two high school-level courses.

But that meant the student’s family wouldn’t be able to save hundreds of dollars or more by earning college credit while in high school.

Clark-Pleasant officials want students taking challenging courses that will earn them college credits but don’t want them overwhelmed by taking too many rigorous courses too fast, director of curriculum and instruction Cameron Rains and Superintendent Patrick Spray said. That’s why school officials are looking for ways to add dual-credit courses, which don’t require students to pass an exam at the end of the course.

That includes finding ways to reduce costs for students taking dual-credit courses, such as seeing whether students can rent textbooks for the college-level classes rather than buying them, Spray and Rains said.

“It comes back to putting choice in the hands of parents and the students,” Spray said.

College credits from AP courses are recognized by most colleges and universities across the country, but students have to pass an exam at the end of the course, and each exam a student takes costs about $90. Indiana covers the cost of math- and science-related AP exams.

Students don’t have to take an exam to earn college credit from dual-credit courses, and the grade they earn in the course is the grade that appears on their college transcript. Most of the state’s public colleges and universities accept dual-credit courses, but they aren’t as widely accepted at colleges outside Indiana.

Across Johnson County, high schools have used a mix of AP and dual-credit courses. Right now Greenwood Community High School offers about twice as many dual-credit courses as AP courses, and next year Greenwood plans to add AP courses in Spanish and art history. District officials want more students taking and passing AP courses so they’ll have a better chance at earning credits that could apply to out-of-state colleges ahead of time.

Recently, Whiteland has been adding AP courses, offering students more AP electives, and has enrolled in a program that will pay students $100 if they pass the end-of-year exams in math, English and science. The cash incentives caused more students to enroll in AP courses — 430 students signed up for the advanced classes in the fall, up from 310 in 2012 — and school officials don’t want to scale back the AP program.

But offering dual-credit courses gives students even more options to earn college credit, Spray and Rains said.

The more college credits students earn in high school, the less time and money they’ll have to spend at community colleges or four-year colleges and universities, Spray and Rains said.

This fall, every credit students take at Ivy Tech Community College will cost $126, while 12 to 17 credits at Indiana University in Bloomington will cost Indiana residents more than $10,000. If high school students can earn more college credits before graduation, they’ll save themselves or their parents hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Right now, most Whiteland students leave with zero to three college credits, Rains and Spray said. By 2017, Spray wants Whiteland graduates to have earned at least nine college credits by the time they graduate.

Spray and Rains know that not every Whiteland student wants to go to college to earn a four-year degree. But even students who want careers in technical and vocational fields such as welding will need some additional training or an associate’s degree. If those students are taking college-level courses in high school, they’ll be able to complete their post-high school training and start their careers faster, Rains and Spray said.

“We don’t live in a world where you don’t need any of these (courses),” Rains said. “You need something beyond high school.”


Here are some of the differences between Advanced Placement and dual-credit courses:

Advanced Placement:

College-level courses taught by teachers trained through an AP certification program. Students must pass an exam at the end of the year to earn college credit. Those credits typically are accepted by most colleges and universities across the nation.

Dual-credit courses:

College-level courses typically taught either by trained teachers or community college professors. Students don’t have to pass an exam at the end of the year for college credit. The grade they earn in the class is the grade that appears on their college transcript. The credits typically are accepted by public colleges and universities in Indiana; their acceptance at colleges outside the state can vary.

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