Collaborative Assessment of Dual Enrollment: The View From Arizona
by Michael Stancliff, Erin Whittig, Lisa McIntyre, Shirley Rose, Duane Roen
In the last 10 years, scholars in composition studies have begun to take stock of the seismic impact of dual credit and concurrent enrollment pathways (DC/CE) on the landscape of composition programs. Nearly every aspect of DC/CE has come under scrutiny with particular emphasis placed on the relative rigor of curricula, questions of equitable access for high school students, the quality of training available for faculty, growth far outpacing accreditation or even clear oversight, and the lack of reliable data about DC/CE practices in general. We describe these issues as they have emerged with the national rise of DC/CE programs. Drawing on position statements from professional organizations and a range of recent scholarship, we add our voice to those in our discipline offering a thoroughgoing inventory of the state of DC/CE practices. Using our local context in Arizona as a case study, we recommend a collaborative approach to developing criteria for assessing DC/CE curricula, exploring among other models Bob Broad’s approach to “dynamic criteria mapping,” which provides us with a framework for organizing collaborative assessment in Arizona. With an eye to our own local institutional history and dynamic, we recommend that our state English Articulation Task Force (ATF) is best positioned to take on a coordinating role among stakeholders in secondary and postsecondary institutions. We offer this local recommendation as one example of how states can engage pedagogical and policy issues (assessment central among them) by forming and maintaining a collaborative approach suited to local contexts in order to move more fully toward our field’s emerging sense of best assessment practices.
A Collaborative Foundation
Arizona has a relatively long history of collaboration among its three state universities and 21 community and tribal colleges; since 1983, the public postsecondary institutions in Arizona have cooperated via an articulation task force (ATF) in each subject area offering general studies courses and degree programs. In the English ATF, faculty and administrators from the institutions have cooperated to address matters such as transfer course articulation, common standardized test scores used for placement in first-year writing (FYW), online course offerings, and degree pathways. The English ATF has a well-established and supported infrastructure for collective faculty decision-making and action on establishing statewide articulation of placement and credit-awarding practices, something Estrem, Shepherd, and Duman (2014) have urged all writing program administrators (WPAs) to work toward. Three decades of productive conversations have led to comprehensive and diligent oversight of transfer pathways, and students now have access to published guides that facilitate nearly seamless course and general studies transfer from any public postsecondary institution to another, and are sometimes able to transfer as many as 90 credit hours.
The current infrastructure can be traced back to at least 1974, when the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education began publishing The Arizona Course Equivalency Guide (CEG), which advisors used widely to counsel community college students planning to transfer to any of the state universities (Arizona Course Applicability System, n.d.). Although articulation task forces were functioning at this time, the system was enhanced in 1983, when the Joint Conference Committee (JCC) of the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) and the State Board of Directors for Community Colleges in Arizona (SBDCCA) collaborated to establish the Academic Program Articulation Steering Committee (APASC) (Arizona Course Applicability System, n.d.). The JCC assigned the APASC the role of overseeing and facilitating transfer articulation of courses among the community colleges and universities. Another enhancement occurred in 1996 when the Arizona State Legislature charged the ABOR and the SBDCCA with developing a plan to enable students with Associate of Arts degrees to enter the state universities with junior class standing (AZ Transfer,1996). Among other things, the 1996 agreement limited community college transfer hours to 60, but allowed the universities to accept more than 60 under special circumstances; further, the agreement made it possible for students to transfer a block of 35 credit hours for general education courses.
There are now articulation task forces in more than 40 postsecondary disciplines (Articulation Task Forces), with more than 1,700 individual representatives from all public and tribal Arizona postsecondary institutions (AZ Transfer, 2015, p. 7). Each participating institution has designated faculty from the relevant disciplines who serve as members of their respective ATFs, and leadership of the meetings rotates among the member institutions. In the case of the English ATF, this role typically is taken on by a WPA or department chair at one of the host institutions. Generally, the meeting participants have identified both policies and practices for which they will work toward mutual alignment, as well as those for which they agree to retain differences related to the institutions’ distinctive missions. Agendas include a relatively wide range of topics such as granting credits for tests (e.g., Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, College-Level Examination Program), common course numbering, online instruction, and recently, dual credit/concurrent enrollment (DC/CE). The annual English ATF meetings have strengthened the working relationships among the community colleges and universities; however, these relationships have taken years to build. The tone of the meetings in the early years tended toward a proprietary attitude on the part of the state universities, setting up a hierarchical relationship with the community colleges. Over the years, this tenor has shifted to a more positive and collegial one with a focus on fostering student success. For those of us who have participated in the annual meetings for decades, the shift seems to have paralleled a growing interest in enhancing retention and graduation rates in the state. Postsecondary faculty and administrators in the state have also fostered a sense that we are all in this together to serve students and the state of Arizona.
Perhaps in response to the rapidly expanding scope of DC/CE programs both in Arizona and nationally, members of the English ATF have very recently begun to engage in discussions about dual enrollment and its role in, and impact on, FYW. The current practice is that each institution offers whatever DC/CE courses it considers will serve its own best interests, and that each institution makes its own decisions about awarding transfer credit for DC/CE courses from schools outside Arizona. It has become clear from recent English ATF discussions that members know little about their institutions’ partnerships with local high schools (unless they themselves are teaching the DC/CE courses). Minutes from the October 2015 meeting provide a glimpse into members’ concerns on dual enrollment in Arizona, which ranged from skepticism about student readiness for “college writing” and whether the college experience can be replicated in a high school classroom, to outright confusion about the ultimate goals of dual enrollment. Though leery of drawing conclusions from anecdotal accounts, we would argue that the necessity of turning to our own experience as Arizona English ATF members points up a larger problem of a lack of transparency and careful oversight and documentation of DC/CE practices nationwide. Farrell and Seifert (2007), describing an early secondary/postsecondary partnership in Arizona, argued that in order to avoid communicative incapacities, “it is critical to create an ongoing collaborative environment … aligning standards at levels and sharing those expectations with students, parents, and faculty” (p. 73).
We believe that the English ATF can build from its history of collaborative work to provide crucial leadership in the design and assessment of DC/CE in FYW in Arizona. Building and leveraging strong collaborative networks of statewide stakeholders with clearly articulated roles—like the English ATF—is among the most important tasks facing FYW faculty and administrators at both secondary and postsecondary institutions. Describing their own experience of statewide collaborative work on writing placement in Idaho, Estrem, Shepherd, and Duman (2014) argued when writing program professionals engage in policy issues, they gain the opportunity “for intervening on commonplace understandings about writing development, literacy, and student performance” (p. 109). Perhaps more importantly, when WPAs engage in conversations with other stakeholders about policy, we would do well to understand ourselves as operating in a rhetorical situation in which academic values and knowledge only go so far.
In focusing on our own local context, our point is not to prescribe a single model but instead to suggest that collaborative arrangements for evaluating DC/CE credit can best, and perhaps of necessity must, be developed from already-built infrastructure. As ATF members ourselves, we are keenly aware that many of the prior agreements negotiated by the English ATF—namely, transfer articulation agreements for FYW courses—may impede assessment of in-state students’ readiness for college writing. Freshmen entering our post-secondary institutions from Arizona high schools can present transcripts proving completion of FYW requirements through dual enrollment courses—courses that many WPAs and FYW faculty know relatively little about—and bypass placement assessments altogether. It is not our intention here to undercut the significant work the ATF has done to ease the transfer process, but as members of the ATF, we must contend with the unintended consequences of previous decisions, like articulation agreements, and their relation to the current DC/CE landscape in Arizona. In what follows, we recommend taking up this work with an eye toward concerns raised by our national professional organizations regarding DC/CE, concerns articulated in position statements by the Two-Year College Association (TYCA, 2012), the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC, 2012), the Council of Writing Program Administrators (CWPA, 2013), and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC, n.d.). We turn first to DC/CE, to provide a brief overview of its historical position in U.S. and Arizona education, and then to examine its current status within Arizona. Guided by position statements from CCCC, NCTE, CWPA, TYCA, and HLC, we then explore how the English ATF might put these statements into more robust practice in order to enhance the quality of DC/CE offerings. Finally, we outline in detail the leading role the English ATF may assume in assuring quality and equity in the development of dual enrollment arrangements in Arizona. In the next section, we trace the growth of dual enrollment nationally and its emergence in Arizona.
The Rise of Dual Enrollment: The Arizona Context
Dual enrollment appears to have its roots in a few oft-cited programs in the Eastern U.S. In 1959, Helen Estes reviewed an early exemplar operating in the Connecticut Cooperative Program for Superior Students at Manchester High School, in which students could take and earn college credit for their courses, including College Level English. In 1973, Syracuse University staff met with local high school and district administrators to launch Project Advance as an attempt to combat “declining academic motivation and boredom” among high school seniors (Gaines & Wilbur, 1985, p. 28). A few years later, in 1978, Jamestown Community College invited academically advanced 11th-graders to enroll in college courses the summer prior to their senior year (Puyear, Thor, & Mills, 2001). Nearly two decades later, Syracuse University hosted the 1997 American Association of Higher Education conference, where the first meeting of the founders of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP) took place.
From the mid-1990s through early 2000s, dual enrollment experienced a growth spurt, as evidenced by the very pointed titles of some publications during that time: “The Dual-Credit Phenomenon! Challenging Secondary School Students Across 50 States” (Andrews, 2001), “The Dual Credit Explosion in Illinois’ Community Colleges” (Andrews, 2000), “Dual Enrollment Programs Spreading” (Gehring, 2001). Further, NACEP has reported a national annual growth rate of 7% since academic year (AY) 2002-2003. Arizona was part of this national surge, as Puyear et al. (2001) demonstrated in their comprehensive overview of the early years of dual enrollment in Arizona. Although the state adopted dual enrollment policy relatively early (1984), widespread interest in these programs surged nearly a decade later, when public high schools took note of Rio Salado College’s partnership with a local private high school. By 2001, all 10 community college districts in Arizona were participating in some form of dual enrollment partnership. In a 1998 status report for the SBDCCA, Puyear et al. (2001) reported 9,000 high school students taking dual enrollment courses, and predicted over 12,000 students doing so by 1999.
Then, a 1999 Arizona Republic article, “Colleges May be Double-Dipping” (Jones, 1999), pointed out that both the high schools and community colleges were receiving funds for the same students. Politicians took notice and introduced four bills related to dual enrollment during the 2000 legislative session. Puyear et al. (2001) acknowledged the inconsistent and unclear funding arrangements and procedures have complicated dual enrollment in Arizona. Hunt (2007) noted a similar history in Florida, where legislators have grappled with the “double-dipping” issue in dual enrollment for decades. Hunt’s (2007) study is an astute analysis of the motivations of Florida legislators, which ultimately questions, “to what extent are recent policy decisions based on serving the best interest for Florida students and to what extent are they based on saving the state costs” (p. 879). Puyear et al. (2001) concluded their own report by describing a town hall on higher education, where participants “saw [dual enrollment] and other collaborative efforts between high schools and colleges as essential if the state is to successfully address the challenges of the emerging information-based economy” (p. 40). While we acknowledge that DC/CE has significant potential benefits, Hunt’s study offers a stark reminder to approach critically the stated motivation of policy makers with an eye toward possible future consequences of specific policies.
In a 2005 report to the Arizona Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the Subcommittee on Dual Enrollment echoed Puyear et al. (2001), noting statewide inconsistencies regarding student admissions requirements, financing and operations, and establishment of faculty advisory committees. Arizona’s current legislation attempts to address these areas; however, the law (ARS 15-1821.01) provided few specifics on how to implement direct oversight and leaves high schools and community colleges to negotiate tuition, accountability and responsibilities of each party, and quality and type of instruction. The law did include stipulations regarding a) grade level and eligibility of participating students (but also included a provision wherein the stipulation may be partially waived), b) evaluation and approval of curriculum, c) appointment of an advisory committee consisting of community college faculty, and d) qualifications of DC/CE course instructors. These stipulations provide little more than a cursory outlining of the boundaries within which high school/community college partnerships must operate; the devil, as they say, is in the details. Other states have attempted to address “the details” with legislation similar to Arizona’s: Illinois’s Dual Credit Quality Act (2009) included stipulations regarding student access and eligibility, program standards, oversight and reporting, and accountability, but shifted much of the responsibility for negotiating these away from individual institutions and onto the State Board of Education, the Board of Higher Education, and the Illinois Community College Board. Lichtenberger, Witt, Blankenberger, and Franklin (2014), explained that the Dual Credit Quality Act grew out of “recognition that though dual credit offerings were increasing across the state, a dearth of research was available to detail either the conditions of courses being offered or validate the anticipated outcomes” (pp. 959-960). Colorado’s comparatively detailed legislation (2009) specifically mandated the creation of a dual enrollment advisory board, comprised of multiple DC/CE stakeholders, to assist local institutions with partnership logistics. As of 2016, 47 states had some kind of statewide DC/CE policy in place (Education Commission of the States, 2016), but much variation is evident particularly in regards to who is responsible for oversight, and what that oversight entails.
Contributing to the murkiness surrounding dual enrollment is the difficulty of obtaining statewide (and even institution-specific) data. Completing the research for this essay, we repeatedly encountered a dearth of reliable data, and were at pains to even reasonably estimate the current number of Arizona high school students enrolled in DC/CE courses. Milem, Salazar, and Bryan (2016) found 22,888 high school students enrolled in dual enrollment courses in Arizona, and, based on Puyear’s prediction of 12,000 participating students for 1999 and NACEP’s reported 7% annual growth, this estimation for Arizona makes sense. Casie Moreland (in press) painstakingly illustrated this difficulty in a Kafkaesque narrative of her attempts to obtain ACCUPLACER test scores for dual enrollment students in a large Arizona community college district. After several unsuccessful attempts to secure the test scores from the high schools, community colleges, and College Board, she contacted the Department of Education Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Manager, who instructed her to “contact the School or the company that performances [performs] that task, as only they would be able to provide that information for you” (p. 12). The difficulties Moreland described—and that we can corroborate—may result largely from the lack of a centralized dual enrollment data collection and verification system. Certainly, there is widespread recognition from various state educational entities that dual enrollment is growing in popularity. AZ Transfer, for instance, stated in its 2016 annual report on articulation and transfer that given the growth of dual enrollment, it is important “students know how those courses will transfer and count toward both associate and bachelor’s degrees.” Yet when we requested statewide data on the number of high school students in dual enrollment courses from the Arizona State System for Information on Student Transfer (ASSIST), a branch of AZ Transfer, there seemed to be little support for investigating statewide dual enrollment trends.
Finally, AZ Transfer and the Arizona community colleges aspire to transparency in transferability of DC/CE credit via the collaborative work done by the ATF members in determining community college to university course equivalency. University ATF members are responsible for evaluating equivalency of community college courses to university courses through an online tool, the Arizona Course Equivalency Tracking System (ACETS). According to the AZ Transfer Handbook and Policy Manual, faculty are advised to evaluate the
content of the course as evidenced by the course description, outline and performance objectives/competencies submitted by the source institution. The modalities used to deliver the course by the source institution are not to be considered in the decision to accept or reject the course. (Evaluation of Transfer Credit, AZ Transfer Handbook & Policy Manual)
The implementation of this policy results in all offerings of the community college course transferring as equivalent to the universities, whether it be offered on the community college campus, in a high-school classroom, or online. However, when it comes to dual enrollment course offerings, a breakdown in rigor/equivalency may occur. High schools may be providing course syllabi that do not align with the community college course. In the 2015 Report to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the AZ Transfer coordinating body acknowledged “the growing popularity of dual enrollment among high school students” who should “know how those courses will transfer and count toward both associate and bachelor’s degrees” (p. 6). However, as we drafted this essay, none of the discipline-specific ATFs were responsible for systematic coordination in addressing the complex dynamics implicit in DC/CE courses.
This lack of rigor might be said to be the result of putting the budgetary cart before the pedagogical horse. Hansen and Farris (2010) raised concerns that DC/CE growth can result in a “competitive atmosphere” in which community colleges feel pressure to offer dual enrollment courses “in order not only to generate enough enrollments and tuition dollars to maintain financial viability but also, in a sense, to protect the curriculum they offer in a particular subject” (p. xxiv). In Arizona, there have been efforts to mitigate the effects of a market-oriented approach. The Maricopa Community College District, the largest county in Arizona, comprised of 10 community colleges serving 220,000 students, established “One Maricopa” in 2008. The program included one post-secondary contact for high school partners and assigned specific community colleges to specific school districts to avoid overlap and competition for students. Other state governments have been more proactive and perhaps more transparent in overseeing profit opportunities via dual enrollment programming. Indiana, Louisiana, and Tennessee have developed performance-based funding models for community colleges that put dual enrollment programs into place. These programs specifically target low-income students, thus circumventing criticisms regarding access that dual enrollment scholars have raised (Struhl, 2013).
Pressure on higher education from dwindling state funding intensifies the causal links between political-economy and pedagogy in the case of DC/CE. To get a fuller picture of this dynamic in Arizona, we must consider the stark economic realities of the state’s community colleges and the economic pressures and complications regarding instructor qualifications. In 2015, Arizona community colleges faced two major changes from external entities, one from the Arizona Legislation and one from the HLC that would have significant impact on their administration of dual enrollment programs. The first came in March 2015 when state officials pulled all state funding for Maricopa and Pima Community College districts, the two largest community college districts in the state. Although budget cuts were not unexpected—the state had already reduced funding from $60 million to Maricopa in 2009 to $7.4 million—the decision to completely defund state support was striking (Paulsen, 2017). The immediate response by both Maricopa and Pima Community College districts was to expand and identify new revenue sources (Smith, 2015). Some observers of North Carolina’s “Career and College Promise” dual enrollment program have worried “college administrators exploit dual enrollment programs to increase tuition revenue,” arguing that “the courses often are dumbed-down” (Watkins, 2017). If, indeed, the growth of dual enrollment has occurred in response to this dire financial situation, the claims of scholars who have identified DC/CE as a source of revenue for strapped institutions seem warranted.
Especially given the relative lack of oversight and transparency, we share these concerns in our own local context. In Arizona, dual enrollment has been explicitly identified by Achieve60AZ (n.d.), an independent alliance of business, community and education stakeholders, as a means of improving the K-12 pipeline. However, this conclusion has been reached in an environment in which Arizona postsecondary institutions also feel pressure to increase the production of degree attainment. According to analysis done by the Arizona Board of Regents, only 46.5% of Arizona high school graduates are eligible for admissions to the three public universities, and only 52.5% of those enrolled in a postsecondary institution immediately following high school. In addition to low rates of postsecondary aspirations by AZ high school students, we find it alarming that only 58 out of 501 high schools, or 11.6% of schools, produced half of the total high school graduates going to postsecondary education (Anderson, 2017). This statistic raises concerns about how well Arizona’s students are being served by their schools. Achieve60AZ is driving an initiative to ensure 60% of Arizonans have a certificate or college degree by 2030, but we contend that DC/CE should be viewed as a viable pathway to college and universities for functional high schools and not a solution for what is arguably a troublingly low rate of matriculation.
The Pedagogy of Pathways
Guidance grounded in the core pedagogical values of our affiliated disciplines can help us navigate these prevailing questions and concerns in practice at the local level. Given the increased scope of pre-college, college-credit options and their overall impact on college writing programs and their mission, national professional organizations in writing studies have seen fit to articulate guidelines for DC/CE programs. Recent scholarship further underscores the concerns and recommendations of these organizations. The TYCA (2012), CCCC (2012), CWPA (2013), and the HLC (n.d.) have all issued advisory statements, which provide a rich framework for evaluating DC/CE programs when taken as a whole, and which might inform collaborative approaches to designing, delivering, and assessing DC/CE curricula. TYCA, CCCC, CWPA, and HLC statements vary in emphasis, but a strong consensus emerges around key areas of concern: the quality of the DC/CE courses themselves; the qualifications of high-school faculty teaching DC/CE courses; student readiness; the importance of collaborative oversight of DC/CE programs; and a number of pressing ethical issues. Though our recommendations primarily address the development of criteria with which we develop and assess dual enrollment curricula, we review each of these general concerns because all have some bearing on our recommendations.
With regard to the quality of DC/CE courses, the position statements all assert the necessity of maintaining a sound pedagogical orientation and level of rigor equivalent to agreed-upon best practices in our discipline as well as the standards of the sponsoring post-secondary institution. For example, CWPA (2013) and CCCC (2012) recommended further guidance for the design and assessment of DC/CE programs should be sought in the “Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing” developed by the Council of Writing Program Administrators, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the National Writing Project (2011). These organizations also recommended alignment with the “WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition” (2014). Noting the general lack of local knowledge regarding the rigor of DC/CE programs, Ferguson, Baker, and Burnett (2015) suggested “community colleges can systematically compare the rigor of dual enrollment courses and standard, non-dual enrollment courses to ensure students experience college-level work” (p. 90). The CCCC and CWPA recommended ongoing assessment of DC/CE curricula at every stage, including the review of course syllabi, site visits to classrooms, and comparative assessment of students in DC/CE and on-campus versions of a writing course. CCCC and TYCA (2012) further recommended assessment of the retention and success of DC/CE students once enrolled in colleges and universities.
The necessity of disciplinary consensus building around the criteria for and process of accreditation would seem to be undeniable. In Arizona, Rio Salado College, part of the Maricopa County Community College District, currently provides the largest number of dual enrollment courses in the state (in 2016 enrolling 44,908 credit-seeking students, 24% of which were dual enrollment) and is the only NACEP-accredited dual enrollment program in Arizona (Maroney, 2017). Accreditation—awarded to programs that adhere to NACEP’s Standards that address comparability of rigor and assessment, instructor qualifications and opportunities for professional development, and accountability—is still a relatively new phenomenon; NACEP (n.d.) reported just 98 accredited partnerships nationwide for AY 2016-2017. If we have the (institutional) courage of our own (disciplinary) convictions, this lagging accreditation rate should concern us. As a safeguard of the integrity of DC/CE curriculum, TYCA (2012), CCCC (2012), and CWPA (2013) supported the NACEP standards, which is the only national accreditation agency for DC/CE programs. TYCA, in fact, further recommended that the NACEP accreditation standards be used in designing DC/CE programs. CCCC and CWPA nonetheless recommended the importance of postsecondary institutional involvement and the need for collaborative design and assessment of DC/CE programs beyond what is required for NACEP accreditation, which Howard Tinberg and Jean-Paul Nadeau (2011) called a “starting point” for developing standards for DC/CE (p. 709). CWPA further noteed that despite NACEP accreditation, DC/CE programs may not produce the learning outcomes desired by the sponsoring post-secondary institution.
Ethical issues related to the aspects of DC/CE programs already mentioned are raised in the TYCA (2012), CCCC (2012), and CWPA (2013) statements. DC/CE programs are often (rightly) understood as desirable for the students for whose families the cost of college may be prohibitive. Nonetheless, TYCA raised concerns that with decreased state funding for education nationwide, funds devoted to DC/CE programs may undercut the college preparation of other high school students for whom—for whatever reason—DC/CE enrollment is not an option. TYCA held that too often, DC/CE programs “[benefit] high achieving students often already enjoying substantial privilege, thus reinforcing existing economic disparities.” HLC (n.d.) registered a similar concern, noting the need to secure “postsecondary access and success for underrepresented students relative to more privileged and high-achieving students.” Scholars detailing one approach in Oklahoma stressed the care in design and implementation of dual enrollment programs necessary to empower socio-economically underprivileged, first-generation students, and ethnic minority students (Roach, Gamez Vargas, & David, 2015). CCCC concurred that DC/CE opportunities should be available to all qualified high school students regardless of economic background.
Although concern over the inequitable treatment of students in schools with dual enrollment arrangements orients the most trenchant critiques, ethical issues affecting both secondary and post-secondary faculty exist as well. For example, high school faculty should receive the training and support necessary in taking on the responsibility of DC/CE instruction. The CCCC (2012) recommended that tasked with training of high school instructors or with oversight of DC/CE programs, the pay and reassigned time of postsecondary instructors should be adjusted accordingly. Finally, given that TYCA (2012), CCCC and CWPA (2013) all identified significant problems in underperforming programs, representing insufficiently rigorous courses as college-equivalent may be the central ethical problem DC/CE programs face.
Just as students deserve and require access to quality dual enrollment programs, high school faculty deserve and require access to quality training. All of the professional organizations in writing studies call for enriched preparation of DC/CE instructors. The qualifications and preparation of instructors delivering DC/CE courses depends on the local institutional circumstances and so varies a great deal, as was noted by the CWPA (2013). TYCA (2012), CCCC (2012), CWPA, and HLC (n.d.) agreed, however, that secondary teachers of DC/CE courses should have training and qualifications equivalent to those of instructors in the sponsoring, post-secondary institution. CCCC and CWPA agreed that ongoing training should be available for high school instructors and that it should be equivalent to the training received by on-campus instructors. Given the scope of DC/CE expansion, this indicates the necessity of a vast professional development project nationwide. We will suggest in the next section an approach to assessment that has an added benefit of making a small step in this direction.
Of course, equitable access to dual enrollment programs with well-trained faculty does not assure the appropriateness of DC/CE pathways in every instance, at least not from a learner-centered perspective. TYCA (2012), CCCC (2012), and CWPA (2013) all raised concerns about student readiness for DC/CE courses. Taken as a whole, the advisory statements conceive of readiness in terms of cognitive development, demonstrated proficiency for college-level work, and social maturation. CCCC asserted DC/CE students should meet admissions standards of the sponsoring post-secondary institution. As the CWPA asserted, concerns about student readiness increase when considering the number of states allowing DC/CE enrollment in 11th, 10th, and 9th grade. Barbara Schneider’s (2010) nuanced discussion of an “Early College High School” program in Toledo, Ohio, charted the success of a small, pilot cohort of talented students and raised questions about the more general cognitive and social maturity of high school students pursuing college writing credit. Schneider also considered how a greater lack of life experience among high school students writing for college and changed dynamics in conversations in classes with a number of younger writers could be factors in assessing overall success. Koszoru and Bolton (2005) argued for the importance of taking into consideration the developmental level of high-school students working through college curriculum. Thelin and Taczak (2013) asserted that teaching of composition in keeping with best practices recommended by contemporary research and theory requires students have more maturity than is possessed by the average 14 or 15-year-old, who would be best served by being allowed to develop cognitively before these types of challenges were put before them (p. 20). As is pointed out in the CWPA statement, FYW courses are the only small-course experiences many post-secondary students have, and as such, they serve an important role enculturating students within the college or university. These benefits are lost when students earn FYW credit before post-secondary matriculation.
To effectively negotiate possible problems along DC/CE “pathways” from secondary to postsecondary institutions, TYCA (2012), CCCC (2012), and CWPA (2013) recommended a collaborative approach to designing, maintaining, and enrolling DC/CE programs. This collaboration should be implemented through the agency of liaisons knowledgeable about the workings and cultures of both partner institutions. TYCA emphasized collaborative assessment, while CWPA stressed the importance of robust communication among all DC/CE stakeholders. Indeed, perhaps the most promising model would establish ongoing dialogue between high school and college writing instructors. Patricia J. Sehulster (2012) recounted how, building on existing models with colleagues, she established “forums” with local high school teachers intended to clarify differences in secondary and postsecondary assumptions about and expectations for student writing, perennially a source of mutual misunderstanding. We turn now to a fuller consideration of this cooperative approach.
Collective Articulation of Criteria
In light of the recommendations of our leading professional organizations and of teacher-scholars studying the potential benefit and potential harm of DC/CE composition, it seems clear FYW programs must reconceive their traditional mission to include state-level participation in DC/CE program design and oversight, even if they do not sponsor these programs themselves. Warning against substitutes for FYW courses that “do not compare well to FYW curriculum,” CWPA (2013) “urges postsecondary institutions to exercise diligence in examining the curriculum, assignments, written work, test scores, and other evidence that students present upon entering college to claim that they already have had an experience equivalent to FYW”. Sehulster’s (2012) thoroughgoing model of collaborative reflection draws this question back to foundational questions, arguing coming to terms with definitional imprecision regarding “college-level writing” is a central aspect of any robust dialogue between secondary and postsecondary writing teachers (pp. 345-346). We suggest as a guide for such dialogue Chris Anson’s (2010) template of core standards for DC/CE composition: Pedagogical Integrity, Programmatic Integrity, Student Needs, and Faculty Development. Anson offered these standards as “a point of departure for further discussions about how we would recognize an excellent [dual-credit composition program] (and by extension what it means to create such a program)” (2010, p. 251). He recommended adaptation of core standards and the development of indicators of success and assessment measures to local situations. This project of articulating standards takes up much of the substance of the CCCC (2012) position statement stipulated the organization can support DC/CE composition only if careful guidelines are articulated.
Rather than simply assuming quality control duties, we recommend approaching the potential and the problems entailed in DC/CE composition as an opportunity for holistic self-reflection:
Decisions to recognize course equivalency and/or to develop DC/CE composition must include re-examination of our assumptions and practices with regard to the on-campus version of composition: the rationale for its requirement, issues of transfer and exemption, curriculum design, instructor preparation and support, and assessment. (CCCC, 2012)
Thus, in keeping with what have begun to emerge as guiding best practices, administrators and faculty of FYW programs should become active collaborators with multiple stakeholders in DC/CE partnerships, primary among them, our colleagues teaching high school English. We submit that developing collaborations “across the divide” of secondary and postsecondary institutions is rewarding, intellectually invigorating work in which we can significantly expand the scope of our public impact. If dual enrollment is here to stay, as most commentators predict, and if it blurs boundaries between institutional “levels” of writing instruction, we should learn, as Miles McCrimmon (2010) argued, “to take advantage of this liminal space and jointly inhabit it” (p. 211). In the remainder of this article, we sketch a role for the English ATF in this joint habitation.
Precedents for effective inter-institutional collaboration exist in Arizona. In 2015, under the auspices of an Improving Teacher Quality grant, educators in higher education and in K-12 settings set to work on a curriculum-writing project. Working with the ABOR, the Governor’s Office of Education Innovation, and the Arizona Department of Education, faculty from Arizona’s three universities and from community colleges and high schools across the state, developed inquiry-based modules for a senior English transition course intended to help students who should be college-bound but failed to score as highly as expected on state-sanctioned tests. Six teams, each intentionally comprised of teachers from high schools, community colleges, and universities, developed modules that supported the “Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing.” These inter-institutional conversations foregrounded the classroom experiences of all the participating groups and thus allowed a rich, action-oriented discussion of alignment and transition. Once the curriculum was complete, additional high school teachers were invited to attend multi-day workshops to familiarize themselves with and adapt the curriculum, and then to pilot the modules in their own classroom. The group was expanded again in 2016, and, after piloting and classroom visits from partner faculty, the curriculum was again revised.
Specifically intended as a transitional rather than a dual enrollment experience, this project operated on the principle that successful transition from the secondary to the postsecondary writing classroom can happen more readily within a group of educators and administrators familiar with one another’s institutional situations and thus possessing greater holistic knowledge of the “pathway” students travel in transition.
Drawing from and building upon lessons and successes from this project, we advocate collaborative work similar to the dynamic criteria mapping exercises Bob Broad (2003) described as part of the assessment project detailed in What We Really Value. It now seems possible to envision an occasion and setting in which writing faculty from high schools and the community colleges and public universities that are part of the AZ transfer system would gather for the purpose of collectively identifying and articulating the qualities, characteristics, and features of student writing that represent college-level student writing. In Broad’s model, teachers first read examples of student work and identified features representing what they considered strengths and weaknesses, moved on to articulating the values those preferences reflected, and subsequently developed a scoring rubric grounded in those values. A fundamental principle of the dynamic criteria mapping exercise is that every writing assessment situation is unique—as specific stakeholders in specific contexts with specific purposes determine what will be valued in student writing. Because the model engages teacher-stakeholders in extensive and intensive discussion about what they value in student writing, it is a promising model for a collaborative project designed to assure that teachers across the secondary, two-year, and university sectors share a common set of values in regards to college-level writing.
What might such conversations look like in the more specific context of dual enrollment curricula? Using Chris Anson’s (2010) rubric as a starting point, the English ATF may need to clearly articulate a process for assessing DC/CE composition coursework. Once a collaborative relationship with mutually agreed-upon roles and robust communication has been established, a set of standards for consistent and transparent assessment of DC/CE programs must be established. As we discussed above, Anson has developed a template of core standards that includes: Pedagogical Integrity, Programmatic Integrity, Student Needs, Economic Fairness, and Faculty Development. We would amend Anson’s rubric only to include an additional indicator, either under Programmatic Integrity or Economic Fairness, stipulating that students of different socio-economic background have equal access to dual enrollment courses. The need for this is widely addressed in DC/CE scholarship and in the position statements of our national organizations in writing studies.
Anson’s (2010) model is especially promising as a guiding document because each core standard is assigned indicators that can be readily verified and methods of assessment for doing so. Further, each core standard is broken down into more specific standards, each phrased as a question, to facilitate a richer, more precise, and more manageable assessment. Pedagogical Integrity, for example, is broken down into these questions:
- Does the course adhere to national standards for the teaching of writing?
- How can we ensure that the courses are equivalent?
- How can we ensure that the instructional methods are consistent—that the learning experience is the same?
- How well does the course prepare students for college-level writing across the curriculum? (Anson, 2010)
Adherence to “national standards for the teaching of writing,” to discuss just one component of the first core standard, is linked to two key indicators, “Articulation and realization of appropriate outcomes and writing experiences,” and “Theory/research based approaches” (Anson, 2010, p. #). These indicators can in turn be discerned through external course reviews and teacher observations of high school and college courses, “examination of all course artifacts,” and the use of course portfolios (Anson, 2010).
Clearly, the implementation of a collaborative approach of mapping criteria would have to be adapted to the particulars of local infrastructure from state to state. Developing a dynamic criteria process requires a cooperative approach to “writing assessment as ecology” (White, Elliot, & Peckham, 2015, p. #). Our thinking is informed by this trope, which we borrow from White, Elliot, and Peckham’s (2015) Very Like a Whale: The Assessment of Writing Programs, which explained writing program assessment is a “unique genre in which constructs are modeled within unique institutional ecologies” (p. 33). That is to say, writing program assessment is a particular genre among many genres of assessment, and the construct of “writing” is determined in part by the particular context and purpose of assessment. Developing a system to derive assessment criteria for DC/CE thus constitutes a genre all its own. We submit that leveraging its historical role in Arizona, the English ATF is well positioned to create the “genre” of assessment best suited for statewide assessment of DC/CE curricula.
Strategizing Dynamic Criteria Mapping on the (Local) Ground
Developing collaborative working groups must, as both Anson (2010) and Broad (2003) suggested, be responsive to local institutional and political conditions. Given our own local contingencies, many of which this essay has reviewed, we believe in Arizona, the English ATF can take a leading role in mapping criteria of DC/CE assessment. To create the conditions in which effective collaboration on this project can take place, the English ATF can more specifically 1) advocate the collection of data that can guide policy, 2) take ownership of organizing the working relationship of stakeholders—that it include personnel from high schools participating in DC/CE partnerships—and 3) work toward the holistic goal of effecting positive change and maintaining a culture of assessment that is healthy and sustainable—drawing here again on White, Elliot, and Peckham’s (2015) notion of “writing assessment as ecology.”
1. Advocate for the systematic collection of DC/CE data. Because NACEP and ECS are not systematically collecting state level data on course-specific DC/CE enrollment, it is difficult—if not impossible—to develop research-driven policy. Indeed, our experience undertaking the research for this article led us to consistent struggles finding accurate data (echoed in Moreland’s [in press] research); this affirms our sense that there is an overall lack of transparency in what has become a quickly expanding DC/CE landscape. In accordance with Arizona law, the Arizona Community College Coordinating Council (ACCCC) compiles a bi-annual report on dual enrollment statistics for each community college district; while these reports are part of public record, they are somewhat difficult to locate, and the information they contain is not summarized for ease of use. For example, the ACCCC 2015 report contained useful data on the number of high school students taking specific dual enrollment courses offered at each high school; however, the data are not tallied to provide a broad disciplinary snapshot. A researcher interested in the number of Arizona high school sophomores enrolled in college composition, for example, must calculate the separate totals reported for each high school. This is not meant to imply a mathematical challenge beyond our limits; we intend only to point out that systematic and regular collection of this information would increase transparency.
2. Take ownership of organizing working relationships of stakeholders. The English ATF can be effective in assuring quality and equity in DC/CE relationships only if it works closely in partnerships with other major stakeholders, specifically, DC/CE faculty and the FYW faculty at the host institutions.
While it seems safe to say that no system is without its drawbacks, Pretlow and Patterson’s (2015) comparative study of statewide dual enrollment programs in Virginia and Ohio suggested principles for structuring productive institutional partnerships. Virginia’s “centralized” approach is preferable to Ohio’s “market” approach for these scholars. Clarity and transparency of policy and practice are provided in Virginia’s model through the governing oversight of the Virginia Plan for Dual Enrollment, which is regularly updated and which keeps the various stakeholders of DC/CE operating under a common understanding. This centralization is the basis of Pretlow and Patterson’s (2015) recommendation that “each state...have a clear policy that addresses all relevant areas of dual enrollment [that can] be found in one location or document” (p. 27). Also adding to clarity and consistency, all dual enrollment is offered through the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), whereas any accredited postsecondary institution in Ohio may offer dual credit. Each community college in the VCCS has a coordinator charged with informing students about DC/CE policy, and all the coordinators meet annually. In addition, only junior and senior high school students are eligible for DC/CE in Virginia, which alleviates concerns about the social and cognitive development of younger adolescents undertaking college-level study. The Virginia Plan addresses all dual enrollment course offerings; as the English ATF occupies a liminal space that positions it at the intersection of stakeholder activity, we envision that the English ATF could draft a discipline-specific “Plan for Composition Dual Enrollment.”
A collaborative structure and clarity and consistency of policy require that DC/CE is not treated as a simple extension of postsecondary education but would address holistically DC/CE “financing, access, transfer of credits, and service areas, just to name a few interrelated aspects” (Pretlow & Patterson, 2015, p. 27). This kind of centralization and dedicated oversight has the best chance of benefiting all stakeholders, primary among them, students. A cooperative approach can help states avoid the problems engendered by the existence of DC/CE as primarily a pursuit of an “institutional revenue source” and public perception of dual enrollment existing as a “competition for students and their tuition dollars” (Pretlow & Patterson, 2015, p. 28).
Given the likelihood that dual enrollment will continue its current growth trajectory, we submit that it is crucial for high school teachers and administrators to have a place in the English ATF. The National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships 2017-2019 Strategic Plan emphasizes institutional collaboration inclusive of high school teachers and has very recently begun to offer workshops to “prepare, motivate, and engage instructors” of DC/CE courses (NACEP, n.d.). While this is encouraging, it is crucial for these participants in DC/CE pathways, high school partners in particular, to have opportunities to impact state level policy matters.
3. Change the culture of DC/CE. Statewide cooperation and dedicated DC/CE personnel would go a long way toward changing the educational culture of DC/CE practice and generally raising critical awareness among all stakeholders. Arguably, it is untenable ethically and procedurally to invest too much authority with any one stakeholder in DC/CE partnerships. If, as we recommend above, stakeholder groups are well coordinated and operating according to an agreed-upon set of policies, broad representation among stakeholder groups will function more effectively. Thus, centralized understanding will in fact allow for a decentralization of decision-making authority.
One notable way in which such a cooperative arrangement has not yet been achieved is the absence of high school partners within the English ATF. The “divide” between secondary and postsecondary institutions is well known and often lamented, but there are models for strong collaboration across the divide. The 2015 Arizona Improving Teacher Quality grant-funded project to implement a senior English transition course discussed above constitutes one such model, as does Estrem et al.’s (2014) case study of collaborative policy initiatives in Idaho. One noteworthy goal of such collaborations is a stronger shared understanding of the types of writing that need to be taught to support students moving to college or career. Keeping the focus on student success will require university faculty learning to partner equitably with high school and community college faculty.
To change the culture of DC/CE assessment, the English ATF can provide leadership by working toward strategies Estrem et al. (2014) recommended for statewide collaboration, first and foremost, the honoring of “institutional contexts and commitments while developing shared values” (p. 108). Because the English ATF membership represents a wide range of stakeholders whose primary task is alignment (of courses, transfer credit, placement procedures, and degree requirements), it may be that they are positioned well, even if out of necessity, to facilitate open and action-oriented institutional cross talk. Estrem et al. also encourage writing program professionals to “engage now; don’t wait for a crisis” (2014, p. 107). In the last several years, a number of scholars have argued that multiple crises regarding dual enrollment have already emerged, and that we have, in effect, waited too long to rally together in response to these crises. The English ATF in Arizona, has, in fact, just recently undertaken attempts to understand the local dual enrollment landscape: program administration, curriculum, transfer of coursework, and perhaps most importantly, the actual lived experiences of students and instructors moving along DC/CE pathways.
Of course, other approaches will be more feasible and effective in other states. Regardless of the approach, we hope we have made a convincing case for collective action by disciplinary experts to develop a more transparent, communication-rich, and equitable model of dual enrollment assessment. Given our local context, and given its position among the public postsecondary institutions in Arizona, it is logical that the English ATF would assume leadership for establishing centralized policies and assessment practices. We offer our recommendations in the spirit of work by Anson (2010), Broad (2003), and Estrem et al. (2014), all of which is meant to be adapted to local contexts, assuming that local contingencies will determine how greater oversight and collaboration are structured.
Appendix of acronyms
ABOR - Arizona Board of Regents
ACCCC - Arizona Community College Coordinating Council
ACETS - Arizona Course Equivalency Tracking System
APASC - Academic Program Articulation Steering Committee
ASSIST - Arizona State System for Information on Student Transfer
ATF - Articulation Task Force
CCCC - Conference on College Composition and Communication
CEG - Course Equivalency Guide
CWPA - Council of Writing Program Administrators
DC/CE - Dual credit/concurrent enrollment
ECS - Education Commission of the States
FYW - First-Year Writing
HLC - Higher Learning Commission
JCC - Joint Conference Committee
NACEP - National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships
SBDCCA - State Board of Directors for Community Colleges in Arizona
TYCA - Two-Year College Association
WPA - Writing Program Administrator
Michael Stancliff is an Associate Professor of English at Arizona State University where he teaches courses in composition, rhetoric, and literature and directs the New College Writing Program. He is the author of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper: African American Reform Rhetoric and the Rise of a Modern Nation State and (with Sharon Crowley) Critical Situations: A Rhetoric for Writing in Communities.
Erin Whittig is the Transfer and Placement Coordinator in the University of Arizona Writing program, where she also teaches composition for EAL writers. She has taught in several countries and managed English language programs both in the U.S. and abroad. Her research interests include assessment, placement, dual/concurrent enrollment, and second language writing.
Lisa McIntyre is the Executive Director for Advising and Student Advancement in the Office of the Executive Vice President and University Provost at Arizona State University. In this role, she works collaboratively with faculty and staff across the university to advance student success and a service-oriented approach to academic advising. Previously, she was charged with centralizing the evaluation of transfer credits for nearly 11,000 transfer students annually—a system that has evaluated more than 200,000 courses in the last three years. Dr. McIntyre also enjoys teaching future Higher Education leaders in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Higher Education graduate programs.
Shirley K. Rose is Professor and Director of Writing Programs in the Department of English at Arizona State University. She is a Past President of the Council of Writing Program Administrators and is the Director of the WPA Consultant-Evaluator Service. She regularly teaches graduate courses in writing program administration and has published articles on writing pedagogy and on issues in archival research and practice. With Irwin Weiser, she has edited three collections on the intellectual work of writing program administration, including The WPA as Researcher, The Writing Program Administrator as Theorist, and Going Public: What Writing Programs Learn from Engagement.
Duane Roen, professor of English, serves as a vice provost and dean at Arizona State University. He has served as president of the Council of Writing Program Administrators and secretary of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. He has written about writing instruction, writing across the curriculum, portfolio assessment, faculty as public intellectuals, family history writing, and other topics. His recent books include the fourth edition of The McGraw-Hill Guide: Writing for College, Writing for Life (with Gregory Glau and Barry Maid) and The Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing: Scholarship and Applications (with Nicholas Behm and Sherry Rankins-Robertson).
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