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News Release

June 22, 2016

Kentucky Dual Credit and Dual Enrollment Courses Spotlighted in New REL Appalachia Research

For Immediate Release

ARLINGTON, Va. – Dual credit and dual enrollment courses are an important feature of schools’ college readiness programs across Kentucky, but there is wide variation in how these programs are implemented, as well as in student participation in and completion of the courses. These findings are highlighted in two recent reports by Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Appalachia focused on dual credit/dual enrollment programs and participation. The reports share findings of two studies developed in partnership with REL Appalachia’s Kentucky College and Career Readiness Alliance.

The first report, The Implementation of Dual Credit Programs in Six Nonurban Kentucky School Districts, examined dual credit program structures, policies, and practices; student eligibility; postsecondary partnerships; course offerings; location and scheduling; instructors and credentialing; student supports; quality assurance; and costs and funding sources.

REL Appalachia researchers found that:

  • Dual credit programs are an important feature of college readiness efforts in all six districts included in the study.
  • Implementation varies widely across and within districts, including the number and types of courses available to students and the costs to families.
  • Each district works with at least one two-year and one four-year institution to offer dual credit programs and courses.
  • The limited availability of credentialed high school teachers in the six districts is a barrier to expansion of dual credit programs.
  • The most prevalent approach offers dual credit courses at the high school campus, taught by credentialed high school teachers.
  • Dual credit programs enable high school students to earn college credit at a discount, but costs and financial support vary widely.

"Since 2009, Kentucky has encouraged increasing the availability of dual credit courses as a strategy to improve students’ college and career readiness," said Patricia Kannapel, REL Appalachia director. "However, questions by practitioners about how others implement these programs, particularly in nonurban regions, prompted this study."

Findings specific to rural districts are especially relevant in Kentucky, where 55% of school districts are designated as rural. As Kentucky seeks to expand dual credit programs, findings from this study indicate that creative solutions may be needed to address challenges related to the following:

  • Increasing the number of instructors credentialed to teach dual credit courses.
  • Increasing access to dual credit opportunities, especially in rural locations.
  • Ensuring that students are ready for college-level coursework.
  • Making dual credit programs affordable for all eligible students across the state.
  • Ensuring course quality.
  • Providing enough dedicated staff at secondary and postsecondary levels to effectively manage dual credit programs.

The study was authored by Mary Piontek, Patricia Kannapel, Michael Flory, and Molly Stewart.

The second report, Dual Enrollment Courses in Kentucky: High School Students’ Participation and Completion Rates, found that about 22% of students who completed dual enrollment courses in Kentucky earned at least the equivalent of a full semester’s worth of college coursework.

Dual enrollment courses, in which students take college courses while still in high school, can be taken on a postsecondary campus, a high school campus, or online. This study describes dual enrollment participation and completion rates for public school students in grades 11 and 12 over a four-year period.

Other findings include the following:

  • About one in five Kentucky students in grades 11 and 12 participated in dual enrollment courses annually.
  • Students passed approximately 85% of dual enrollment courses that they attempted.
  • Dual enrollment participation rates were higher for:
    • White students (21% vs. non-White students at 12%).
    • Students not eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (21% vs. eligible students at 18%).
    • Students attending school in Appalachian counties (26% vs. students in non-Appalachian counties at 17%).
    • Students attending school in rural areas (25% vs. attending school in nonrural areas at 16%).
  • Dual enrollment completion rates were lower for courses attempted by:
    • Black students (78% vs. White students at 85%).
    • Students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (80% vs. noneligible students at 88%).
  • The percentage of courses taken online rose from 4% in 2009 to 10% in 2013.

"The results from this study provide important insights about Kentucky’s efforts to improve college and career readiness for its K-12 public education students," said Chad Lochmiller, an assistant professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in the School of Education at Indiana University and the report’s principal investigator. "This was one of the first studies to use the state’s new longitudinal data system, and, in doing so, it created significant value for the stakeholders. The insights from this study can inform policy and practice, and pave the way for future work about the state’s burgeoning dual enrollment and dual credit program."

For example, the increase in students attempting courses online has important implications for the state as staff consider how best to provide access to dual enrollment courses. The findings also raise questions about how the state and its postsecondary institutions can provide education supports (such as academic assistance, guidance counseling, language support, and special education services) to students enrolled in dual enrollment courses, especially those from underperforming student groups.

Researchers indicate that future studies might explore whether any factors impede racial/ethnic minorities, male students, and low-income students from participating in and completing dual enrollment courses, as well as how such potential barriers might be prevented or overcome. In addition, further research is needed about the nature and quality of dual enrollment courses in various regions and locales, as well as supports that may be needed to facilitate successful course completion for students in rural and high-poverty schools.

The study was authored by Chad Lochmiller, Thomas Sugimoto, Patricia Muller, Gina Mosier, and Steven Williamson.

Click the images below for report highlights. Click here to view the full report for The Implementation of Dual Credit Programs in Six Nonurban Kentucky School Districts, and click here to view the full report for Dual Enrollment Courses in Kentucky: High School Students’ Participation and Completion Rates.

One-page summary of The Implementation of Dual Credit Programs in Six Nonurban Kentucky School Districts

One-page summary of Dual Enrollment Courses in Kentucky: High School Students’ Participation and Completion Rates

Infographic on selected findings from Dual Enrollment Courses in Kentucky: High School Students’ Participation and Completion Rates

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