Sunday, September 23, 2018

Pasco County schools seek to boost dual enrollment for students

About 1,500 Pasco County high school students took more than 6,500 dual enrollment courses through Pasco-Hernando State College in the past year, at a cost of $1.33 million in tuition and textbooks.

School district officials want to boost all the numbers but the bottom line.

As the School Board approved a new $1.6 million dual enrollment contract with PHSC on Tuesday for the coming year, board members talked with staff about how they can reduce the expenses while getting more students into the college credit bearing courses that count toward their associate's degrees.

One key idea: Offering more of the courses at the district's high schools, with qualified district instructors. That switch would eliminate the tuition cost associated with taking the same course on the college campus.

"We paid a lot of money into tuition. … We paid a lot of money in textbooks," assistant superintendent Tammy Berryhill said. "We would like to put more of that money back into Pasco County schools."

Some of the money could be used to pay certified teachers more for their dual enrollment results. One concept the district has floated for contract negotiations is to offer bonuses of $50 for every student who earns a C or better in a dual enrollment course.

Teachers already receive similar amounts for their students who pass an Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge exam. Adding dual enrollment to the mix makes sense, Berryhill said, both for employees and the district.

Based on 2017-18 numbers, bonuses would have cost about $150,000 — far less than the amount the district is spending to send students to PHSC.

District officials also are exploring the possibility of providing dual enrollment courses online through Pasco eSchool. So far, PHSC officials have balked at the idea, so the district is talking to other area colleges for possible agreements.

Teaching and Learning senior supervisor Samantha Del Valle told the board that online options are more likely to occur in 2020.

Board members said they supported the idea of keeping students on campus for their dual enrollment courses, if possible. They encouraged the staff to look for creative ways to prepare teachers and to fill classes, even if it means having students attend remotely.

Board member Allen Altman said it's important to have these high achievers on campus, serving as role models for other students.

"Every opportunity to have them on our campuses as a positive example … I am all for it," Altman said.

"I also get concerned about student safety every time they get into a car," superintendent Kurt Browning added, suggesting that having teachers travel among campuses to teach the courses would be a better alternative.

The district is considering hiring full-time dual enrollment instructors in future years, Berryhill said.

Board members also asked about saving money on textbooks by buying and reusing them. Del Valle said that idea also is under investigation, but it depends upon the course and titles.

She noted that the district currently gets book lists late, which makes it hard to find less expensive options. Officials have asked the college to provide the information earlier, she said, so they can take advantage of bulk purchasing opportunities.

District leaders are enthusiastic about dual enrollment because it gives students a head start on getting a college degree, at no cost to their families. The program also closes college attainment gaps between high and low income students, with students in dual enrollment more likely to earn a degree.

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