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Dual credit program reviewed by U-46 Board

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 was updated on the first year of a dual credit program in which some district students are taking classes at Elgin Community College (ECC) and receiving college credit at its meeting on Monday, March 19.
  The 2017-18 school year was the first year of the program after board approval last year, and it’s open to 45 high school seniors. The district invited 45 students into the program while 44 decided to pursue it in the first semester, and 42 remained for the second semester as Chris Boden, the program’s lead counselor, said one student moved out of state and another struggled with the college-level courses and decided to return to their high school.
  The high school breakdown saw 11 students from South Elgin, 10 from Elgin, nine from Bartlett, eight from Larkin and seven from Streamwood among the original 45 invitees. Of those invited, 30 were female and 15 male and 38 percent were free or reduced price lunches.
  The cumulative grade point average (GPA) of the 44 students in the first semester was 3.42, Bartlett’s students receiving the highest average at 3.9. A total of 633 college credits were obtained by those students.
  “ECC was, needless to say, quite pleased with how well, as was I, how well our students did first semester,” Boden said.
  The credit hours earned in the first semester by those students equated to $79,125 in tuition savings for those select families according to the district as taxpayers are paying the tuition cost.
  Terri Lozier, assistant superintendent secondary schools, said “we pay tuition and any of the course fees at ECC,” and the students pay for their books as well as U-46’s instructional fees. Students enroll in 12 to 16 credit hours of courses each semester with this year’s cost being $125 per credit, which will increase to $129 in 2018-19. The total cost to taxpayers if all students enroll in 12 credit hours is $148,320, and it’s $194,760 for 16 credit hours.
  U-46 could expand the program an extra grade level but is not recommending that right now.
  “We are also allowed to have 45 additional spaces for sophomores who will be juniors, but at this time we do not feel that one semesters worth of data is enough to progress to an additional year,” said Lozier who added: “We want to make sure we have the senior program pretty well under control.”
  Lozier said students enroll in four or five courses each semester and attend classes Monday through Thursday and meet weekly with Boden. She said they can earn up to 32 transferable college credits and classes are aligned to either an associate’s degree in arts or sciences.
  Qualified students must have an un-weighted cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher meaning students in Advanced Placement classes who can score a 5.0 on a 4.0 scale would not receive the added weight. Lozier said “this is an ECC requirement, not a U-46 requirement.”
  Students must also have a good attendance record and meet college readiness standards from ACT or SAT testing. If students have not taken the ACT or SAT or did not meet the standard, they can also take the ECC placement exam and still have a chance for qualification.
  Going forward, ECC will require students to take the placement exams on its campus and not at U-46 schools. Lozier said “it would be much easier” for the exams to be taken in U-46, but “there’s a question of how secure the test is and are they all being given within the same parameters, so that is why ECC is asking us to send our students over there.”
  For this year’s students, all U-46 students who met the requirements were targeted and their high school guidance councilors were told to speak with each of them.
  Moving forward the district would like for students to apply for the program during regular class registration instead of the targeted approach, and the district is also exploring dual credit options that would allow students to take classes at their high school.
  Lozier said students are not allowed to compete in Illinois High School Association (IHSA) or ECC athletics.
  Board member Jeanette Ward asked about why students would be precluded from IHSA competition to which Boden said “from an IHSA perspective, you have to do an eligibility report” and ECC professors do not provide grade reports on the same schedule as the district which could put U-46 teams at-risk of playing ineligible players.
  “That seems rather unfair to the student that they’re not able to participate in athletics. I know a lot of highly motivated students also are very athletic,” said Ward who asked if the district could seek special exemptions from the IHSA.
  Boden said it’s “one of our biggest challenges” and the district is working with ECC to try and find a solution, and Lozier said “we can certainly reach out and ask” the IHSA.
  Board member Sue Kerr inquired about districts 300 and 303, both also participate in the same dual credit program, and if they exclude students from IHSA competition. Boden said: “One is allowing participation and one is not.”
  Board member Melissa Owens asked if dual credit classes housed in U-46 schools would allow students to compete in IHSA programs and Boden said it’s “almost a different model” and it would make eligibility issues easier to handle. Boden said the idea would to have ECC send a professor to the district or have a U-46 teacher become an adjunct professor which is currently being piloted in St. Charles.
  Casey Pearce, the board’s student advisor, said: “It’s like Ms. Ward said, there are a lot of students who do really well in school but they’re really committed to their team or their sport.”
  Pearce asked if students in the program graduate with their high school class. Boden said they do and can also take part in senior activities like the senior boat trip or senior dinner.
  Kerr asked what the largest challenge has been for students to which Boden said “really trying to understand what exactly time management looks like.” Owens asked if students will be surveyed, and Boden said there will be a formal audit conducted.
  Board member Traci Ellis asked if U-46 can only exclusively run a dual credit program with ECC. Lozier said ECC was given “first right” because U-46 taxpayers largely reside in ECC’s taxing district, but the district can run programs with other colleges as she said Harper College and others have approached them.




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