As a participant on the Communication Arts and Literature transfer pathway, representing one of Minnesota’s public universities, I found Ashley A. Smith’s article, “Partnering to Transfer” from Inside Higher Ed. (November 14, 2017) to be of interest. In the article, Smith characterizes the Minnesota’s system for creating the first mandated transfer pathways between the 30 two-year institutions and the 7 public universities as involving “little controversy”. The first pathways — biology, business, theater and psychology were launched this fall. Kim Lynch, senior system director of educational innovations for Minnesota State, asserts that the reason for the lack of controversy surrounding these first pathways is the way that the system invited faculty, staff, students, and administrators to the table to put together them together, rather than just having them “legislated”. As someone who was part of the process, it was always clear to me that we had no choice; we had to make it work because it was law. That being said, the end result was better because representatives from the subject areas and institutes helped shape it.
Two upcoming pathways of interest to NCTE members in Minnesota are the English and Communication Arts and Literature (CAL/English Education) pathways. As Lynch indicated, the people who worked on the pathways were indeed a mix of individuals who played various roles in the representative institutions. Participants spent six months on this work, sent out tentative pathways for feedback from all the institutions involved, and addressed the feedback in later versions of the pathways. There was a difference, however, between the creation of each pathway. There was a good cross section of representatives working on the English pathway.
This pathway seems well-supported by the two year and four year institutions and seems easy for students to follow. Many of the two year institutions and all of the four year institutions offer a healthy amount of course options, and English programs also leave room for electives. The Communication Arts and Literature pathway is more problematic. First, it involves courses from three rather than one program and the number, types, and levels of courses differ from university to university. Second, the program is dense because students must meet licensure requirements from the Board of Teaching. Third, the education portion of program has not typically been offered at the two year institutes, so it requires the addition of new courses. As a result of some of these issues, there was poor attendance or lack of interest from the two year institutes and lack of buy-in from some of the universities. A CAL transfer pathway exists, but it still needs to be supported by the accrediting body (Board of Teaching). Also, because the pathway is packed with required courses, it will be difficult for students to use unless they are sure they will be secondary English teachers from the moment they begin their college career and if they don’t have access to good advising.