College credit program could get surge of teachers

Close to 100 local high school teachers could become eligible to teach College Credit Plus courses in the next two years, thanks to state grants involving three local colleges.

Wright State University, in partnership with Clark State Community College, earned a $702,000 Straight-A innovation grant that will allow 60 or more high school teachers to take the required graduate courses tuition-free.

Sinclair Community College earned a similar state grant of $228,000, augmenting $100,000 the college dedicated on its own a year ago. Wright State is also putting $162,000 of its own funding toward the effort.

“Providing this funding for teacher credentialing will ultimately allow more students to take advantage of College Credit Plus (at their high schools), which is great news for students and families looking to save potentially thousands on the cost of a college education,” said Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor John Carey.

College Credit Plus is the state’s vehicle for students to simultaneously earn high school and college credit, usually at no cost, for advanced coursework. Some education research suggests that students who earn multiple college credits while in high school are more likely to achieve some level of college degree.

Many schools involved

The three colleges said they will partner with dozens of local public, Catholic, charter, STEM and career tech high schools to identify teachers interested in taking advantage of the grant.

Mary Ellen Ashley, vice president of enrollment management at Wright State, said she’ll be sending a letter to high school principals and superintendents in the coming weeks, and setting up times to visit schools and explain the opportunity to high school teachers.

The impact of the grant could be substantial across a number of core content areas at Clark State, according to Charles Cuffman, interim dean of Arts and Sciences. Cuffman expects growth in areas like composition and rhetoric, mathematics and statistics, and the sciences — where the lion’s share of Clark State’s College Credit Plus instruction is already taking place.

But in order to see that impact, high schools need more qualified teachers. Ashley said in order to teach college material in WSU’s program, a high school teacher must hold a master’s degree in their content area (not a master’s in education), or must complete a cohesive set of 18 graduate credit hours in that content area.

Hurdles for teachers?

Bellbrook High School Principal Chris Baker said he’s not sure how much interest there will be from teachers. He pointed out that for many teachers, it would require several semesters of coursework on top of their teaching load, with added paperwork and no bump in pay.

Baker suggested the state should look at veteran teachers who already qualify to teach Advanced Placement courses and find a way to test or vet them for approval into College Credit Plus.

Bellbrook Assistant Principal David Hann said close to one-third of his school’s 900 students are pursuing early college credit. But he said unless more teachers take the extra coursework, the number of classes available will drop next year, as one of Bellbrook’s partner colleges raises its standards for teachers.

“Each school has its own rules and procedures,” Hann said. “If the state truly wants students to have these college experiences, they’re going to have to look at what these requirements are.”

Meeting the demands

Ohio Department of Higher Education spokesman Jeff Robinson said close to 32,000 Ohio students participated in College Credit Plus this fall. Robinson said it’s hard to tell whether that’s more than last year, because the previous framework allowed for local arrangements that weren’t tracked well.

Sinclair officials said they have about 2,400 students in the CCP program, an all-time high for their early-credit efforts. Clark State’s student participation is up 15 percent over the previous year. And Ashley said Wright State went from 374 students a year ago to 509 this fall, and now about 600 this spring.

Even before the grant, Ashley said WSU had 8 to 10 teachers getting certified for CCP to meet that increased demand. She said any of those teachers returning when the grant starts this summer will be the first recipients, since they’ve already invested in their efforts.

Ashley said 78 more high school teachers have expressed interest to WSU, and another 48 to Clark State. Part of the grant will cover Wright State’s cost of developing their courses and making many of them available online.

“You’re trying to make these courses really interesting,” Ashley said. “Especially for the high school teacher who has worked hard all day and has all these issues they’re dealing with, we can’t have a boring class for them.”

Clark State officials said they’re “delighted” to partner with Wright State, but Cuffman added it’s important that the colleges put together a vetting process to find appropriate, fast-track teaching candidates, and a process “with clear expectations, monitoring, and documentation.”

That aligns with what Ohio Higher Ed says is important on the student side of CCP as well, calling high school guidance counselors and college advisors crucial in guiding families to the best decisions.

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