Dual credit is unfairly criticized

The 68 percent increase in the number of high school students taking college courses for credit between 2002-3 and 2010-11 is being assailed by critics (“The Rise of Dual Credit,” Education Next Weekly, Sept. 23).  They charge that when the courses are taught by high school teachers, rigor is lost.

The criticism assumes that introductory courses taught by graduate students in college automatically are superior.  I disagree. In fact, I submit that certified high school teachers are far better at instruction because they are trained in pedagogy. Graduate students who teach the bulk of introductory college courses lack such training.

Even when introductory courses are taught by professors there is no assurance that students learn more than they would if the same courses were taught by certified high school teachers.  When I was an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, some of the worst classes I took were by full professors.  They were solely interested in publishing rather than in teaching. I learned far more from my high school teachers.

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2 Replies to “Dual credit is unfairly criticized”

  1. I’d argue that the problem with high school students taking “college level” courses for credit (AP and IB) is not that the teaching is inferior in high school but rather that the curriculum is often dumbed down. This is particularly likely to be a problem in those school systems that aggressively push AP course enrollment for average or slightly-above-average students. When some/many of the students in the AP course are pretty much “B” or “C” students at the high school level, the teacher will — as a practical matter — be under intense pressure to dumb down the course work in order to ensure that the students taking the AP course receive at least passing grades for the course + many/most high school students just do not have enough time in the day to do the reading/writing/thinking required by a real college-level course so either the teacher will water-down the workload or the students will be routinely staying up half the night doing the work. The former will more often be the case in the less-academically-competitive high schools and the latter will more often be the case in the more-academically-competitive high schools.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: You make a good point. It’s true that some students are enrolled in dual credit classes when they lack the wherewithal to succeed. As a result, teachers will indeed be under extreme pressure to dumb down the curriculum. But it’s also wrong to assume that introductory courses taught by grad students in college are always rigorous. There is intense pressure in such courses to pass all enrolled because they are seen as consumers who must be kept happy.

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