The stakeholders in the educational sector have raised concerns that the transition from high school to college among students in this country is hampered by a number of challenges. After completing high school, students always find the learning environment in colleges completely strange. According to the research done by Twombly and Townsend (2000), it is evident that there is no smooth transition from high school to institutions of higher learning.
This problem is particularly common among students from economically challenged families. The policymakers and education leaders in many states have come up with dual enrolment policies as the best way of addressing this problem. The stakeholders in the education sector believe that enrolling K-12 students on some of the college courses offer the students an opportunity to understand what to expect in institutions of higher learning. This policy prepares them for college life and eliminates time that is always wasted as the learner struggles to understand various basic concepts at the college. This research seeks to determine if it is true that promoting dual enrolment policies increases student achievement and access to higher education.
Policy Formation and Scale
Policymakers believe that dual enrolment policies will help increase the quality of the skilled workforce in this country. Individual states have come up with policies meant to promote dual enrolment among K-12 students. According to Wallace (2006), over 74% of college classes are being taken by high school students nationally because of the dual enrolment policy. This clearly demonstrates the scale of application of the policy in this country. As Shaw (2007) notes, the stakeholders have been convinced that the best way of making high school learners prepared for college life is to introduce them to college classes while they are still at high school. They get to know what is expected of them early enough.
According to Barr (2005), all 50 states have formulated policies meant to promote dual enrolment. 38 states have come up with very stringent measures defining the students who should be allowed to go through the dual enrolment and the courses that they should take. However, this policy is still in progress in many states and remains optional for high school students. This means that they have the liberty to take such courses or not.
Some states have come up with legislation in order to entrench this policy into law. The Legislature of Michigan passed into law the Post-secondary Enrollment Options Act and Public Act 258 of 2000 which clearly stipulates the steps that should be taken when making the dual enrolment for K-12 students. This Act explains the courses that the K-12 students can be allowed to take, the stage at which they can take these courses, and the type of credit they can earn. The law requires school district boards to provide the students with the right information about the importance of dual enrolment before they start taking the courses.
Impact and Policy Implementation
The implementation of this policy has met a number of challenges in many of the states in this country. While the concept of dual enrolment has been in existence for several years, many stakeholders are yet to understand its relevance among the learners. For instance, it has been challenging to convince parents that their children need to enrol for some college courses while in high school in order to enhance the smooth transition from high school to college.
Many schools have taken different approaches in implementing the policy because of the unclear policies that guide its implementation. While some schools have invested a lot in the technological infrastructure to enhance online learning as a way of promoting dual enrolment, other schools have taken a more relaxed approach. This means that students are offered different opportunities to take college courses. Learners from economically challenged families find themselves deprived of such opportunities as their counterparts in high-end learning institutions benefit.
This policy has had a great impact on the learners who are graduating from high schools to colleges in many states within the country. The policy has made it possible for the students in high school to be prepared for their academic life in college. By introducing some of the courses at college to them while they are still in high school, they get to understand what is expected of them and how to prepare for such courses. This may also dispel the fear that some learners may have about academic life in the institutions of higher learning. This way, more students will be willing to join colleges, increasing access to higher education in the country.
Communication to Public
Communication is very important when formulating and implementing the dual enrolment policy. All the stakeholders must be engaged actively in the process. In many cases, the policymakers have failed to involve the students in the policy formulation and implementation. They are largely ignored, and the assumption is that they will always accept what is presented to them. According to Smart and Paulsen (2011), however positive a policy maybe, if the students consider it oppressive or irrelevant, its implementation may face numerous challenges. For this reason, there should be a proper communication process that will help in capturing their thoughts.
When the thoughts of the learners are incorporated in developing the dual enrolment policies, the chances that they shall accept the concept will be very high. The policymakers will need to coordinate with the teachers in order to find the best way of capturing the thoughts of the learners. The public should also be informed about the events that are taking place. The public is majorly the parents whose children are expected to take the dual enrolment while still in high school. As mentioned before, some parents may not understand why it is important for them to enrol their children in college courses while they are still in high school.
The policymakers must come up with a proper explanation to these parents in order to convince them why this is necessary. Coming up with a concept that captures the thoughts of all these stakeholders will make the implementation process simple. This can be explained using the Cognitive theory. According to Smerdon and Borman (2012, p. 67), “Cognitive theory is built on the premise that a person’s thought controls his actions, personality, and to some degree his circumstances”
Effect and Effectiveness of the Policy
In order to understand the effect and effectiveness of the dual enrolment policies in promoting and increasing access to higher education, it is important to analyze some of the states that have implemented this program. Florida is one of the states that have made an effort to promote dual enrolment among high school students. The Florida State Department of Education has partnered with other stakeholders in the education sector to come up with policies that will help in promoting the participation of the local school districts in the dual enrolment programs within the stage (Karp, 2004).
According to Hofmann and Voloch (2012), “The Florida State Department of Education sees this program as key to meeting the state’s goals for seamless articulation between secondary and post-secondary education and for high school student achievement.” The state government has invested a lot in promoting the dual enrolment program among high school students. In effect, there has been a consistent drop in the number of pre-college dropouts.
More students are now enrolling in colleges or other institutions of higher learning than it was before, and the stakeholders believe that this is a result of this program. The academic problems faced by the students soon after joining colleges are also reduced because they have the knowledge of what to expect at the institutions of higher learning. As Karling (2008) reveals in his research, the transition from high school to college has become smooth.
According to Barnett and Stamm (2010), this policy is very effective in increasing students’ achievement both in high school and colleges. When the high school students are introduced to college courses, their drive to join the college always becomes very great. This will make them put extra effort into their classwork in order to join some of the best colleges. This results in better performances. Their performance at the college level will also be improved because most of the basic concepts shall have been learnt at the high school level. This policy increases the passion of high school learners to join colleges. The desire to join institutions of higher learning eliminates cases where students consider dropping out of school soon after graduating from high school. This increases access to higher education.
Dual enrolment policies have become popular in many states within the country. It is clear from the discussion above that many states have made efforts to find the best way of formulating and implementing policies related to dual enrolment. Although the policies still remain flexible in this state as stakeholders struggle to come up with proper measures that can be uniformly applied, many district schools and public academies have embraced the need to have dual enrolment for their K-12 students. Most of these institutions have been improving their infrastructure in order to promote online learning. This way, the learners will only take the courses available online in order to ensure that their classes at the high school are not affected.
The policymakers have realized that the best way of formulating and implementing policies on dual enrolment is to involve all the relevant stakeholders in the education sector. The learners are directly affected by such policies, and it is, therefore, important to get their views on the best approach that should be taken. The parents should also be informed, and their opinions factored in when formulating the policies. Teachers know what their students need. They should form part of the policy formulation. When all these stakeholders are involved, the policy that is developed will be acceptable. The research clearly reveals that promoting dual enrolment policies actually increases the student’s achievement and access to higher education.
Barnett, E. & Stamm, L. (2010). Dual Enrollment: A Strategy for Educational Advancement of all Students. Washington: Blackboard Institute.
Barr, M. C. (2005). Dual enrollment policy outcomes: A comparative analysis of the Running Start and transfer cohorts of 1997 and 1998. New York: Cengage.
Hofmann, E. & Voloch, D. (2012). Dual enrollment: Strategies, outcomes, and lessons for school-college partnerships. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Karling, G. J. (2008). Participation in a dual enrollment vocational program and the perceived psycho-social outcomes in relation to the educational engagement of participating high school students: A case study in a rural setting. London: McMillan.
Karp, M. M. (2004). State dual enrollment policies: Addressing access and quality. Washington: Cengage.
Shaw, K. M. (2007). State postsecondary education research: New methods to inform policy and practice. Sterling: Stylus.
Smart, J. C., & Paulsen, M. B. (2011). Higher education: Handbook of theory and research. Dordrecht: Springer.
Smerdon, B., &Borman, K. M. (2012). Pressing forward: Increasing and expanding rigour and relevance in America’s high schools. Charlotte: Information Age Pub.
Twombly, S. B., & Townsend, B. K. (2000). Community colleges: Policy in the future context. Westport: Ablex Publishers.
Wallace, A. W. (2006). A study of the dual enrollment policies and procedures in Virginia’s local school divisions. New York: Cengage.