Dual Enrollment, The Good, the Bad, and the Potentially Ugly, Part III - National Council of Teachers of English
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Dual Enrollment, The Good, the Bad, and the Potentially Ugly, Part III

This is the last in a three-part series written by NCTE TYCA Chair, Eva Payne. See Part I and Part II.

In addition to the challenges of equivalency in students, grades, and expectations, many states, not just Oregon, seek a solution to the lack of qualified high school teachers to meet the expanding numbers of dual enrollment courses being offered. The ACT (2015) recommends that high school teachers be supported in “obtaining the necessary certification for dual enrollment programs” by earning the necessary credits in their discipline area to meet accreditation standards and have the same qualifications as faculty hired as adjuncts on college campuses. NACEP standards, and many accreditation agencies across the United States, specify that DE students and their instructors meet the same standards as students and instructors on college campuses to ensure validity of the college credits taught at high schools.

In Oregon K–12 schools, a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) is required. However, the MAT curriculum at Oregon State, Portland State, Eastern Oregon University, and Western Oregon University requires no graduate-level credits in the discipline area. Teachers in high schools with just undergraduate courses in their discipline areas may feel ill prepared to teach high school writing, and they may feel not at all well prepared to teach college-level writing.

States eager to expand dual enrollment seek ways to sidestep NACEP and accreditation agency mandates by using high school teachers in the role of teaching assistants and college faculty as their mentors and “instructor of record.” One community college faculty member in Michigan is the instructor of record for ten classes being taught at her local high school. Schemes that expand dual- credit options without qualified faculty and funding for oversight shortchange all students who are participating in dual enrollment and shortchange the investment of scarce state and federal education dollars.

The focus on equivalency and student success is lost when colleges and universities compete to offer easier access to dual credit. An August 2015 letter sent to Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission and cosigned by the Chair of the Provosts Council of the Public Universities of Oregon, Sona Andrews, who is the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Portland State University, and CIA Chair Christie Plinski, who is the Vice President for Office of Instruction and Student Development at Mt. Hood Community College, “identified one barrier” to the problem of unqualified faculty and sought a solution by requesting that the state ignore the requirement for a master’s degree:

This barrier is the current OAR (589-008-0100 Guidelines for Formation of Community College Personnel Policies) that mandates community colleges employ individuals with (1) (b): “a master’s degree in a subject area closely related to that in which the instructor will be teaching.” This OAR presents a barrier because it applies only to community college faculty, not university faculty.

At the May meeting of the Council of Instructional Administrators and the Provosts Council, we recommended that this language be removed from the OAR. This language does not allow universities and community colleges to operate at the same level in the accelerated learning arena. The universities and community colleges respectfully request that the HECC remove the language, “a master’s degree in a subject area closely related to that in which the instructor will be teaching” from OAR 589-008-0100 (1) (b).

This plea to lower standards for teacher qualifications is not about improving the quality of dual-credit courses or maintaining equivalency; it is a plea that will enable all Oregon institutions of higher learning to join in the lucrative double-dipping business of dual credit—even more so now that Pell Grant federal dollars will be involved.

Even when high school teachers and their students are equivalently qualified to college faculty and college students, teaching conditions often differ wildly. At NCTE’s 2015 Annual Convention, high school teachers attending a Dual Credit and College-Level Writing session reported teaching between 150 and 200 students. These high numbers are more than double that faced by most faculty teaching writing on community college campuses or in four-year schools.

In 2007–08, Oregon had the unflattering distinction of ranking 49th in the nation for class size; only Utah’s classes were larger. In 2014, class sizes were still large and the number of days in school had been cut. Hardworking high school teachers stepped up: “[M]any talented teachers are willing to go the extra mile for students, even when they have potentially backbreaking student loads, said Bob Macauley, principal of Glencoe High in Hillsboro, where typical class sizes range in the upper 30s and many teachers shoulder more than 200 students” (Hammond, 2014). Even if DE class sizes were limited to the same number of students as in college classes, high school teachers are often tasked with additional preparations and providing feedback to startling numbers of total students as well as the additional burden of having large classes that are mixed level.

While equivalency is challenging, the many successful dual-enrolled students provide evidence that it is possible. Less clear is how underprepared students will benefit from being in college-level courses in high school, another proposed way to expand dual-enrollment options.

Hodara (2015) reports, “nearly 75 percent of recent high school graduates who enrolled in an Oregon community college and graduate . . . took at least one developmental education course.” Hodara also notes that students who opt for a four-year school take far fewer developmental courses. The difference, which Hodara does not get to in her report, could be attributed to the differences in admissions policies: the open door of a community college versus an application process that includes SAT or ACT score achievement and GPA cutoffs at Oregon’s universities.

Like many others, Hodara laments the vagaries of placement testing and the ineffectiveness and costliness of developmental education coursework (p. 3), but she recognizes the role that Common Core may play in addressing some of the weaknesses in high school curriculum.

Hodara’s numbers are reflected in the data from my own college, Chemeketa Community College, during the five-year period 2008–2013. Feeder high schools in our district variously prepared students: on the high end, 80% of the students from some high schools tested into college-level writing; on the low end, only 20% of the students choosing Chemeketa tested into college-level writing. Without more granular analysis of these numbers, it is difficult to make assumptions about either the students or the schools.

Too often, and Hodara notes this correlation, dual enrollment is seen as the reason for success:

High school students who took dual-credit courses were less likely than students who did not to participate in developmental education and more likely to enroll directly in college-level math and English at community college. The most common dual-credit courses are college-level algebra and English composition.

Students who took dual-credit English were 15 percentage points less likely to participate in developmental reading or writing than their counterparts who did not take dual-credit English.

Helping students enroll in and succeed in these dual-credit courses may present a promising strategy for expanding opportunities for students to engage with challenging, college-level material in high school and for secondary and postsecondary institutions to work together to align expectations. (p. 13)

It is not surprising that students who succeeded in college-level course work in high school did not end up taking developmental courses in college. If high schools prepared all of their students for college-level work when they graduated, remediation at community college would be limited to our returning students or students whose high school experiences did not serve them well—and that bad service might have as much to do with the student and the student’s home life as the school.

Considering how we can advocate for what is best about dual enrollment and safeguard limited education dollars by ensuring the equivalency and integrity of dual-enrollment offerings is important and essential work that can be started by advocating for the following:

  • Adhering to NACEP standards—if the courses are not equivalent, they aren’t a good investment of public funds
  • Advising students of color and low-income students on the implications of accruing student debt and of using Pell Grant money while still in high school
  • Creating a sliding scale for dual-enrollment participation—use tax dollars for those with the greatest need
  • Providing stable, adequate funding for oversight of dual enrollment.

Supporting the high school teachers who do this difficult work and ensuring that students have truly transferable credits that benefit them as they move forward is a common goal for everyone who supports dual enrollment. This requires thoughtful, thorough guidelines at the state level and stable, adequate funding for oversight to ensure that high standards are met.


ACT. (2015). Using dual enrollment to improve the educational outcomes of high school students. Policy Brief. Retrieved from https://www.act.org/research/policymakers/pdf/UsingDual

An, B. P., & Taylor, J. L. (2015). Are dual enrollment students college ready? Evidence from the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 23(58). http://dx.doi.org/10.14507/epaa.v23.1781

Chemeketa Community College (2015). Chemeketa Scholars. Retrieved from http://www.chemeketa.

Hammond, B. (2014) New normal for Portland-area high schools: Huge classes, overloaded teachers, short school years, gaps in students’ days. OregonLive.com. Retrieved 16 December 2015 from http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2013/12/oregon_schools_pentack_

Hodara, M. (2015). What predicts participation in developmental education among recent high school graduates at community college? Lessons from Oregon. Education Northwest. Retrieved from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/northwest/pdf/REL_2015081.pdf

Huelsman, M. (2015). The debt divide. The racial and class bias behind the “new normal” of student borrowing. Demos. Retrieved from http://www.demos.org/publication/debt-divide-racial-and-class-bias-behind-new-normal-student-borrowing

Karp. M., Hughes, K. & Cormier, M. (2012). Dual enrollment for college completion: findings from Tennessee and peer states. Retrieved from http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/dual-enrollment-tennessee-peer-states.html

Ketcham, P. (2015) Willamette Promise annual report. August 2015. Retrieved from http://www.wesd.

Knowles, N. (2013). Eastern Promise Language Arts PLC. Spring 2013 portfolio report. Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZW91LmVkdXxlYXN0ZXJ

National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships. (2012). What guarantees the quality of dual credit programs? Retrieved from http://handouts.aacrao.org/am12/finished/Thomas

Oregon Department of Education. Dual credit in Oregon: Follow-up and analysis of students taking dual credit in high school in 2008 with subsequent performance in high school. Retrieved from http://www.ode.state.or.us/teachlearn/subjects/postsecondary/techprep/pdfs/2010-dual-credit-study-6.pdf

Oregon State University. (2015). Master of arts in teaching curriculum. Cascades. Retrieved from http://osucascades.edu/master-arts-teaching-curriculum

Read, R. (2015). Oregon embraces free community-college tuition ahead of other states, outpacing Obama proposal. The Oregonian/OregonLive. Retrieved from http://www.oregonlive.com/

Speroni, C. (2011). High school dual enrollment programs: Are we fast-tracking students too fast? Mathematica Policy Research and Community College Research Center. National Center for Postsecondary Research. Retrieved from http://www.postsecondaryresearch.org/i/a/document

Western Oregon University (2015). Masters of arts in teaching: Initial licensure middle/high school authorization. Retrieved from http://www.wou.edu/graduate/files/2015/05/PPMATIL.pdf

Eva Payne, National TYCA chair, teaches at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon.