It is the first good news in Kansas education in the last 20 years. The Kansas Board of Regents has discarded criteria for college credit courses that were lower than required to teach high school. KBOR adopted standards that require college graduate course work to teach concurrent enrollment classes that will count for transfer to regents schools. This will dramatically affect the number of dual credit courses offered in high schools across Kansas starting next year.
To understand the minimal credentials required under the concurrent enrolment system, we have to look back at its establishment in 1993. At that time, it was seen as being only for a few very high performing high school juniors and seniors—the “Doogie Howsers”—who might benefit from taking some college course work. That student had to be in 11th or 12th grade and demonstrate “the ability to benefit from participation in the regular curricula of eligible postsecondary education institutions.” A student at Lawrence High School might get the last period off to go up to KU and take a class with regular college students.
This student had to be special and “...authorized by the principal of the school attended to apply for enrollment at an eligible postsecondary institution, and is acceptable or has been accepted for enrollment at an eligible postsecondary education institution.”
However, subsequent legislation modified the requirements to include sophomores. Today students take dual credit courses in high school without any note from the principal indicating they are special and well before they have been accepted into any state college or university. Today’s student are all Doogie Howsers. And the vast majority of courses are not on-site at colleges or universities.
The critical factor for quality is the credentials of the teachers of these college credit courses. Two decades ago, the criteria for teaching college-credit courses was dropped from masters with 24 hours in the field to masters with 18 credit hours in the field. Outlying community colleges pleaded that they could not find teachers with higher backgrounds.
Then, in 2005 when addressing the credentials of high school teachers teaching dual credit courses, KBOR lowered the requirements, also allowing teachers at Kansas Community Colleges and Technical Schools to teach dual credit/concurrent enrollment course work with just a Bachelor’s degree including 24 credit hours in the field taught. This is less content than is required by secondary teacher programs to teach these courses at the high school level!
However, this last year, KBOR adopted Higher Learning Commission criteria for course work that transfers to Kansas regents schools. That would include all dual credit taught at KS secondary schools.
The instructor must have a master’s degree in the same discipline as the course OR a master’s in a related discipline with 18 graduate credits in the same discipline as the course. Exceptions are possible in the case of a specialist (musician, potter, etc.).
While there are bonafide concurrent credit courses offered both at higher education sites and at high schools, there are also a large number of courses given college credit that simply are not of college rigor. Some Kansas students transfer in so much questionable course work that the 4-year bachelor’s degree is hardly a genuine 3-year degree.
As always, enforcement is critical. KSDE leaves the enforcing of this standard to KBOR. And KBOR is relying on higher education institutions enforcing the teacher credentials standard on those high schools with which they have concurrent agreements.
There will be attempts at shuck and jive. The "related" masters may be distant. The 18 graduate credit hours should be built on top of undergraduate prerequisites in the field taught. But we can expect service centers and online for-profits to gear up to offer cheap 18-credit hour graduate programs.
But in education, where academic rigor has been a defend-and-fall-back battle, this is our first victory in 20 years.