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49 Pathways: Concurrent Enrollment
"I teach college classes at Falcon High School," said Connie Michaels-Lipp, Academy of Health Sciences instructor at Falcon High School. "I tell my students that when you walk through this door, you're walking into college."
Increasing numbers of District 49 students are taking college courses while in high school. Science teachers from District 49 high schools and Pikes Peak Community College department chairs and science professors met March 13 to discuss how both organizations can best serve this group of students.
In response to new high school graduation guidelines issued by the Colorado Department of Education, District 49 is developing 49 Pathways. Our new model for secondary education brings more options to more students. It’s personalized and flexible with freedom for the busy learner of the 21st-century. For parents it means more personal attention for students and financial savings with the ability to earn college credit while in high school and to graduate ready to join a highly competitive global workforce.
Concurrent enrollment provides customized pathway options for our students to support their career and college goals by earning free college credit while in high school while completing other components of the graduation requirements. The educators met to discuss the skills concurrent enrollment students are bringing to Pikes Peak Community College and areas where some improvement is needed.
"What do we need to change to get our kids ready for the level of preparedness these college instructors are saying we need?" asked Sand Creek High School Assistant Principal Janet Giddings.
"The hand holding in high school is a problem," said Kristin Rowan, PPCC chemistry chair and two time high school instructor. "I know at early levels there has to be a component of that, but in AP? No way. If there is too much hand holding it isn't a college level class."
"In our academy, we scaffold expectations from freshman to seniors," said Michaels-Lipp. "We start out with 14 year olds and by the time they are seniors they are much closer to being a college student. Our Health Sciences Academy syllabi reflect that." The group discussed the need to accelerate that transition for concurrent enrollment students.
The college professors stressed the need for students to be prepared for an increased expectation of responsibility and preparation before class. "They must read ahead before coming to class or I can't help them," said Rowan, "They won't be on the same page as me and the rest of the class."
Anne Montgomery, biology chair at the community college, knows concurrent enrollment is perfect for some students. "I had a student that liked his college classes so much more because it was based on exams and not homework," said Montgomery. "He got Ds and Fs in his high school classes. He'd get 95 on tests and then 20 zeroes on the homework."
The group agreed that the individualization and flexibility that 49 Pathways gives students will make for more effective learning. "As we have more meaningful conversations about ICAPs in middle school," said Mary Perez, District 49 director of concurrent enrollment, "students will be on a pathway with classes that belong to them and their interests."
The Individualized Career and Academic Plan (ICAP) is a crucial component of meeting the unique needs and interests of every student in 49 Pathways. "That's the direction we are heading," said Perez, "they'll be in classes because of what they said they want to be."
Perez, who led the College Pathways program at The Classical Academy before joining District 49, said parental involvement is an important differences between high school and college classes. "In college, professors expect to only work with the student through challenging issues and parental involvement is limited," said Perez. "Our students are learning to self advocate for their success, which is required in a college setting.
"All of us are willing to bend over backwards for students that are trying hard to get through their course," said Peter Falldorf, PPCC Anatomy and Physiology Professor, but noted that success in college ultimately falls on the student. "They have to read as much or as little as they determine they need," said Falldorf. "If their grades aren't where the want them to be, maybe they need to read a little bit more."
The group spent some time talking about the occasional large age difference between a community college and high school student. The college professors said it is not a barrier to a successful learning environment. "We have no issues between concurrent enrollment students and our traditional students," said Falldorf, "the interaction is always there."
District 49 plans to have concurrent enrollment options on District 49 campuses by certified college adjunct instructors and on college campuses by college professors.
"Isn't it exciting?" Perez asked the group, "We are making a difference one student at a time."