By Hillary S. Meeks
Killeen Daily Herald
Eight times as many students are enrolled in dual-credit courses this year than during the past year according to Susan Holley, assistant superintendent of student services for the Killeen Independent School District. Enrollment increased to 240 from 30 a year ago.
Dual-credit courses allow a student to simultaneously garner credit for college and high school.
Holley said the jump in dual-credit enrollment is the result of a partnership established last year between Central Texas College and the district, whereby the college has provided two professors who travel to local high school campuses and teach college-level courses in government and history.
Also, KISD has hired an English teacher to rotate between Killeen, Ellison, Shoemaker and Harker Heights high schools to teach English 1 and 2.
A reason for lower enrollments figures in the past, she said, was the district's inability to find and retain teachers who were qualified to teach college-level courses.
That's when CTC stepped in and offered its services. The college has also been offering dual-credit courses for years. Now, KISD is footing the bill for its students, according to Tasha Gardener, CTC admissions counselor and recruiter.
"Before, it was limited to students who had the economic means," she said.
Students can earn credit through the collaborative program for English 1 and 2, government 1 and 2 and history 1 and 2. KISD pays for both tuition and books, which can take an 18 credit-hour bite out of college costs .
To enroll, Gardener said, students must complete the qualifications for 10th-grade course work and meet the state exemption for dual credit on the TAKS test. If the student is from out of state and did not take the TAKS exit test, he or she must pass the ASSET test with a college standard.
If students choose, they also can take summer classes from CTC and graduate the spring of their senior year not only with a high school degree, but with an associate's degree as well. After that, they can pursue a four-year degree.
"We're focused on the core curriculum ... which makes (the credits) extremely transferable in the state of Texas. And our classes transfer well even outside the state of Texas," Gardener said.
While CTC directs its focus on core classes, a more specific approach is being attempted in a pilot program called Middle College. This program is offered through the Texas Bioscience Institute in Temple. It functions as a component of Temple College and offers courses in biotechnology as well as hosting various research scientists.
Middle College offers advanced science and math dual-credit classes to high school students in preparation for pre-medical or biotechnology degrees. About 50 students from Temple, Belton, Killeen, Troy, Academy, Rogers and Bartlett are attending the first year of TBI Middle School, with 17 of those being from KISD.
"Basically, these students are full-time college students and full-time high school students at the same time. Because we're a Middle College, students can take more classes than they normally could for dual credit," said Nelda Howton, director of TBI Middle College.
This is the first year for Middle College, and it already is being lauded nationally. This Thursday, Howton will travel to the STEM Education Diversity Forum in Washington, D.C., so TBI Middle College can be showcased as one of the "Best Practice" STEM education programs in the United States, she said. It will be a model for schools throughout Texas, and possibly the rest of the nation.
While students enhance their math and science skills, they also take professional speech, technical writing and English. Through this program, students can earn an associate's degree by the time they graduate high school, Howton said.
TBI Middle College students are expected to endure the rigors of higher education classes, but Howton said there is still a "safety net" in place for them emotionally that normal college students wouldn't have. Tutoring is provided on a regular basis both on KISD campuses and at TBI Middle College, and parents are kept regularly informed about attendance and other issues.
"If you think about it, the greatest drop-out rate is freshman year," Howton said, noting they help some of these students bypass some of the obstacles college freshmen face.
But, she said to keep in mind students at TBI Middle College are the top of their class and are ready for such classes. Perhaps that's why Ellison High School juniors Isis Gardner and Brittany Harris said that, so far, their TBI Middle College classes haven't seemed too difficult.
They also said the dual-credit English course they took at KISD this past summer wasn't hard. But it did have a different format than a normal high school English class.
"I hate high school English. It seems like they spend five weeks on nouns and verbs and, in the college class, we spent about two days. I like the pace better," Harris said.
The two also agreed that "reality hits" when they see the bill for their college course books, which KISD pays for.
Gardner said the course has helped her understand options she might have after graduating from high school.
"You get to hear about something you might be interested in someday. Like what they were talking about today," she said, referring to a conference Middle College students attended Friday at which TBI proteinomics research scientist Dr. Alex Asea spoke.
Howton said interaction with well-known research scientists, such as Dr. Art Frankel, who is considered to be the second-ranked cancer research scientist in the nation, is another perk for young students in Middle College.
"Most college students wouldn't even have the opportunity to hear speakers like these," she said.
For more information about Middle College, contact by mail at Texas Bioscience Institute, 5701 Airport Road, Temple, Texas, 76502; by phone at (254) 298-8782; or by e-mail at email@example.com.
For more information about the dual credit program at KISD in collaboration with Central Texas College, call Tasha Gardner by phone at (254) 526-1409, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Hillary S. Meeks at email@example.com