"There had been a bit of a practice...on the Iron Range where if there was [a high school] student who was ready to be challenged a bit more, there was an effort made to provide him or her the opportunity to take some courses at a nearby community college," remembers Cyndy Crist, retired system director for P-16 collaboration for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU).
It was an idea that deserved more attention. In 1985, Governor Perpich oversaw ground-breaking dual- enrollment legislation to bring those opportunities to students throughout the state. The approval of Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) made Minnesota the first state in the country to formalize a high school student's right to access college courses.
Soon, the original PSEO legislation was amended to add a second option."The changes in the [legislation] wording meant that schools and colleges could enter into an agreement where the school would offer the college course to qualified students," explains Crist. These "concurrent enrollment" courses were to be taught by high school teachers - who have been selected, prepared, and mentored by post-secondary faculty members - in their own classrooms.
Says Susan Henderson, director of Pre-College Programs for CCE, "College in the Schools started in 1986, with one course in 10 high schools. As of 2012-13, we offer 36 courses, and are working with around 400 teachers in 130 schools. It has grown dramatically--both here and statewide. The on-campus U of M PSEO program continues to be highly popular as well; each year, nearly twice as many high school students apply than PSEO can admit."
The rise in popularity of dual enrollment is due to a combination of factors, Crist and Henderson both say. For one, it ameliorates the cost of a college education to the student and the student's family--which is especially important as the economy recovers, and the cost of tuition increases.
Second, it gives students a college experience while still affording them some of the resources and stability of their high school lives.
There is also a confidence boost that comes with succeeding in college courses as a high school student. "They take a class or two, and they have success, and think 'I CAN do this. I CAN succeed in a college environment,'" Henderson continues. "Moreover, dual enrollment allows students to get a jump start on earning college credits, thus building the academic momentum that leads to post-secondary success."
That confidence and momentum are especially important for students in CCE's newest pre-college initiative, the CIS Entry Point Project (EPP), launched in 2009.
Traditionally, CIS has focused exclusively on high-achieving students. CIS staff and advisory board members were keenly aware, however, that in today's world, all students need some kind of postsecondary education--and that the current programming was not reaching all the students who could benefit from participating in CIS.
The Entry Point Project was designed in response to that challenge. EPP offers carefully selected University courses that provide both challenging work and effective support to students in the 50th to 80th percentile of their high school class. The courses incorporate Universal Instructional Design, a highly interactive pedagogy that emphasizes critical thinking and reflection on learning, and incorporates regular cycles of practice and feedback.
Entry Point instructor David Boie (who was himself a PSEO student in the 1980s) teaches Physics by Inquiry at Richfield Senior High School. "A lot of these students will be the first in their families or generation to go to college--IF they go. It gives them the confidence they can do the work...that going to college really is an option for them. There's a tremendous sense of pride in that. CIS, the Entry Point Project, they've opened the doors to an education, to a future, that had been closed for a lot of kids before. It's very inspiring."
He continues, "It's inquiry-based, very collaborative work. They are in the lab most days, doing hands-on stuff. We're not just lecturing them 'On this date in this year, such-and-such was discovered.' We're letting them discover these principles for themselves."
College in the Schools is a valuable asset not just for students, but for teachers as well. Just as the students are able to get a feel for what will be expected of them in college by taking a CIS course, their teachers are able to learn what the U expects students to know and be capable of by working with University faculty from sponsoring departments on an ongoing basis.
Teaching a University course through College in the Schools is a way to teach a challenging class to motivated students, while also reconnecting with peers at other high schools and in higher education. Throughout their work, teachers have University support and attend on-campus, discipline-specific workshops to help keep them up-to-date with the University course and new information in their field.
"CIS serves two audiences," says Boie. "Obviously the students, but it's a tremendous professional development opportunity for teachers, as well. To be able to go to the U, sit down with University faculty and subject-matter experts, and talk to them one instructor to another is great. And beyond that, the chance to meet with other teachers from across the state and to network, to pick up on each other's ideas...all of that. It's one of the best parts of being involved with CIS. It's expanded my thinking; it's challenged me."
CIS by the numbers
113 high schools
22.9 professional development hours per teacher
41,829 credits earned
19% students of color (9% did not report ethnicity)
36 course titles, including: Literature, University Writing, Writing Studio, Public Speaking, Applied Economics, American History, Political Science, Psychology, Mathematical Modeling and Prediction, CSE Calculus I, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Japanese, Latin, Spanish, Physics by Inquiry, Animal Science, Human Anatomy and Physiology, Plant Propagation
PSEO by the numbers
10,974 U of M credits granted
30% students of color (7% did not report ethnicity)
2011-2012 Stats courtesy of: Precollege staff
Photo of David Boie by V. Paul Virtucio