CCCC 2006 in Review
This panel presented three distinct views on dual enrollment. First, session chair Mary Lazar from Kent State University, Tuscarawas provided a global view of dual enrollment in her presentation, "The Increasing Significance of Dual-Enrollment Programs: A National Overview." An idea in only its second decade of existence, Lazar notes that enrollment in dual credit programs has grown to more than 500,000 students as of 2004, and that programs have now been extended past high school seniors and juniors down to students in the ninth and tenth grades. In conjunction with her horror regarding this trend, Lazar emphasizes three major problems with dual enrollment, both in composition and beyond. First, there is little input from high school teachers in the current literature on the subject. While this absence is likely due to the fact that high school teachers typically do not engage in scholarship that leads to publication, Lazar is right to point out that such an omission provides a limited view of dual enrollment. Second, questions over quality control and concerns with the clarity of learning outcomes at the two different institutional levels continue to plague dual enrollment. Third, Lazar questions the cognitive development of high school students to complete college-level coursework. While many college instructors might say the same of their students, especially first-year students only a few months removed from high school, Lazar's point certainly warrants consideration.
Before extending her critique of dual enrollment programs, Lazar stops to point out the typical goals of such programs. Noting that these goals tend to surround the academic advancement of top students, Lazar states three goals are common in dual enrollment programs. First, dual enrollment programs enhance student learning in the senior year of high school. Second, such programs tend to supplement the high school curriculum in areas that tend to be limited or weak, such as the arts, languages, and technical programs. Third, such programs save high schools money as they make money for colleges and universities. Using this point as a springboard back to her concerns, Lazar labels this last goal as part of a larger system that "disguises vouchers for the elite."
Lazar concludes by listing several other concerns with dual enrollment programs including transferability of courses, funding allocations and disbursements, course rigor, and the diminishing number of advanced placement (AP) courses that typically have higher standards for credit. Lazar then encourages attendees and larger organizations, such as NCTE and CCCC, to examine this trend more closely and perhaps develop a policy statement for the teaching of composition in dual credit programs.
Moving from Lazar's concerns and general pessimism regarding dual enrollment, Tim Hacker from the University of Tennessee at Martin provides a positive view of teaching composition as a dual enrollment program in his presentation, "Distance-Learning, Pedagogy, and Dual-Credit Composition." While Hacker began by echoing some of Lazar's concerns and adding some of his own-such as scheduling differences (high school "blocks" versus college semesters) and limited or problematic access to university services, he makes a strong statement for dual credit composition, "The coalescence of full-time faculty, distance learning technology, and theme-based approaches to writing [can] make dual credit [composition] courses a success." Hacker acknowledges that he only works with students in their student year, all composition and high school teachers in the UT-Martin program meet accreditation standards, and only composition is offered for dual credit at UT-Martin, such an approach has even led to an added number of recent hires in composition to maintain and improve the quality of the program. It is likely that UT-Martin's program is atypical of dual enrollment programs; however, its success is clear, according to the presenter. Hacker then goes on to detail his approach to and successes in teaching dual enrollment courses over the past five years, and how this work, in fact, might benefit the recruitment, retention, transition, preparedness, and graduation rates of students at both levels of education. Further, Hacker argues that dual enrollment programs might also help to bridge the widening gap between learning in high school and college today.
Finally, Hugh and Anna Culick present the development of a local dual enrollment program designed to address the "resistance, disengagement, and dissatisfaction" with the high school education in one Michigan community. Hugh Culick, former chair of the English Department at the University of Detroit-Mercy, describes how the course at the heart of the program focused on cultural critique; in fact, according to Culick, this course was an upper-division course not common to most dual enrollment initiatives and became the centerpiece for a community school and even part of its application process. Culick describes the course as "a natural tool for the school's agenda" as an ideological position statement on the need for and centrality of critical civic engagement. Anna Culick then adds that students were selected for this school and this course in particular to allow them to engage their interests. Such engagement led to a heightened sense of inclusion for students in the school's mission as well as to an improvement in high school student retention rates and number of students enrolling in post-secondary educational opportunities. Despite all of the positives in the school's vision and the students' achievements, Culick and Culick lament that this course and community collaboration quickly and quietly disappeared for several reasons, including, as Hugh emphasizes, the "political ideologies of the modern world that undermine such critical pedagogy." It is unlikely that other dual initiatives will so easily disappear, but it is also likely that alternative visions will be harder to realize as dual enrollment becomes even more institutionalized over the coming years.
For more information on the CCCC 2006 conference,
visit the NCTE Web site at http://www.ncte.org/profdev/conv/cccc/.