This post was written by NCTE member Sarah Z. Johnson.
If you teach writing, whether in high school or in the first years of college, you need to be aware of what’s going on in the world of dual enrollment, also called dual credit or concurrent enrollment.
Over the past ten years, dual enrollment (DE) has become one of the fastest growing educational trends in the United States. With governors and legislators under pressure to ease the crushing economic burden of post-secondary education, DE has been one way states have tried to put a Band-Aid on rising college tuition costs. If they can promise voters that their kids can get up to two years of college “out of the way” and free before graduating from high school, that’s a win for everyone, right?
Except, of course, that it isn’t always. Recent research in our field (see College Access, Chasing Transparency, and Who is it Working For) shows racial gaps in access and success in DE programs. It reports that students as young as 12 are taking first-year composition, and questions how a seventh grader or even a tenth grader can be developmentally ready to tackle the complex social, cognitive, and rhetorical tasks that college writing demands.
Dual enrollment holds enormous promise for students, but the programs must be well-conceived and well-run, and clear research-based guidelines are needed to ensure this.
While many of NCTE’s affiliate organizations had put out separate position statements on dual enrollment over the years, there had never been a unifying voice that spoke for everyone teaching at this transition point between high school and college writing. So in 2018, Carolyn Calhoon-Dillahunt, then chair of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), charged a task force, which included teachers in high school, two-year institutions, and four-year colleges and universities, to determine what has been shown to work. (For more information check out the task force’s Dual Enrollment Annotated Bibliography)
A New Joint Statement
The result of our work—the recent Joint Position Statement on Dual Enrollment in Composition—is a tool, both for education and advocacy. If members of your department aren’t familiar with how dual enrollment is implemented at your school, read and share the document with your colleagues.
To accommodate the variety of DE programs across the country, the principles and guidelines outlined in the position statement are general enough to apply to most programs while also specific enough to provide clear guidance. If you are working within an effective DE program, the statement is a great way to assess what’s in alignment with recommendations and consider how to make small improvements. If you are working in a program that seems flawed but you’re not sure what to do, this statement will help you and your administrators pinpoint where you’re out of step with what’s best for student learning, faculty support, and program quality.
Having a unified voice on dual enrollment in composition is vital to our profession. As secondary teachers, we need to make clear where our expertise lies, advocate for effective professional development and support, and defend our professional integrity against the unfounded suspicion that our DE courses lack rigor. As postsecondary teachers and program coordinators, we must clearly outline what it means to teach and support a college course.
The Joint Position Statement on Dual Enrollment in Composition is an important step toward building coherence, consistency, and quality in dual enrollment programs throughout the United States.
Sarah Z. Johnson is director of the writing center and chair of the English department at Madison College in Madison, Wisconsin. She served as chair of the task force that wrote the Joint Statement on Dual Enrollment. She is chair of TYCA, a member of the NCTE and CCCC Executive Committees, and serves on the editorial board of the journal WPA: Writing Program Administration.
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