here for PDF format
Joe Nathan, director,
Center for School Change, Macalester College
8301 Creekside Circle #920, Bloomington, MN 55437
of the discussion
Johnson, chair; David Broden, Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland (phone), Dwight
Johnson, Dan Loritz, and Wayne Popham (phone)
cites advantages of
quarter-century of experience with dual enrollment, which allows high
school students to enroll in college classes for credit, tuition free.
Dual enrollment expands the number of college-bound students, he says.
Perhaps surprisingly, studies reveal that low-income, low-achieving high
school students often outperform their peers in college classes.
Therefore, colleges should enroll low-income and low-achieving high school
students, not only those who rank high in their classes, he said, and high
schools should avoid discouraging dual enrollment.
Welcome and introduction--Verne
and Paul welcomed and introduced Joe Nathan, PhD and Director,
Center for School Change,
Macalester College. Nathan has been an inner city public school aide,
teacher and administrator. He has helped to write several major laws,
including one establishing post-secondary options for high school students
and the nation's first charter public school law. Nathan served as a local
president in St. Paul and as a member of the Minnesota State
board. He has written three books, two of which have been labeled "must
read" by the American School Board Journal, and edited a fourth. He writes
a weekly column carried regularly by about 15 Minnesota newspapers.
Nathan earned a B.A. from Carleton, an MA and a PhD from the University of
Minnesota. His wife of 37 years just retired after 33 years as a St. Paul
Public School teacher. Their three children attended and graduated from
St. Paul Public Schools.
Minnesota's Post-secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) law--The
topic for today is PSEO, a 1985 law that gives 11th and 12th grade high
school students in Minnesota the opportunity to take college courses on
college campuses while still in high school. School districts are not
permitted to block students from taking such courses. Students pay no
tuition, book or lab fees for the PSEO college classes. They may receive
either high school and college credit for such courses. If they later
enter the institution where they earned credits, they automatically
receive those credits on their record at that institution. It is the
prerogative of other institutions to decide whether and how many PSEO
course credits from other schools they will accept. Post-secondary
institutions set their own rules for accepting high school students. State
aid for the courses taken by PSEO students that would have gone to local
school districts is transferred to the accepting post-secondary
institutions. A student may complete up to two years of college while
still in high school under the law. The Minnesota Department of Education
estimates that since 1985, about 114,000 students have taken courses on
college campuses by virtue of the PSEO law. For more information:
Comments and discussion-During
Nathan's comments and in discussion with the Civic Caucus the following
points were raised:
Special benefit for low-achievers observed--Contrary
to what might be expected, males, low-income students and low-achieving
high school students all appear to benefit from similar "Dual Credit"
programs in New York and Florida more than peers who have more social,
economic and educational advantages, Nathan said, quoting results from an
October 2007 study by the National Research Center for Career and
Technical Education, University of Minnesota. The study was based on PSEO
participation in 1994-95.
Nathan cited the following specific quote from the 2007 report:
"(There) are encouraging findings regarding the influence of dual
enrollment on the types of students who tend to be less successful in
college. Males, low-income students, and low-achieving high school
students all appear to benefit from participation in dual enrollment to a
greater extent than their dual enrollment peers who enter college courses
with more social, economic, and educational advantages. This indicates
that dual enrollment may well be a strategy for encouraging postsecondary
success among students not typically seen as college-bound. It also
indicates that, contrary to the arguments of some critics of expanding
dual enrollment programs, dual enrollment can benefit a range of students,
not only those who achieve at very high levels in high school. Indeed,
dual enrollment may be most beneficial to those students who are often
excluded from participation."
A 1996 Legislative Auditor study reported that Minnesota PSEO
participants generally received higher grades than regularly admitted
post-secondary students during 1994-95, except at technical colleges,
where they did somewhat worse. This study also noted that "94 percent of
the students...said that getting a head start on college credits was
'important' or 'very important'...and 82 percent said that saving on
postsecondary costs was 'important' or 'very important'."
Higher college graduation rates seen--Nathan
cited another study of 1,393 students from the
of St. Scholastica, Duluth, between 1999 and 2006. That study, by Erin
McQuillan, in Undergraduate Economic Review, revealed that PSEO
students while shown not to have higher ACT (college entrance) scores then
their peers, had a 25 percent higher college graduation rate, were more
likely to graduate early, and were more likely to have a second major,
Post-secondary education needed for jobs--Nathan
emphasized that a
Georgetown University study found 70 percent of jobs will require some
education beyond high school in coming years. That doesn't mean everyone
will need a four-year degree. The key word is "some" education beyond high
school, he said. There is much evidence even a two-year degree will give
people a much greater chance that they will be better off economically as
well as have more personal satisfaction in life, he said. The need for
post-secondary education isn't just "valuable"; it's "critical", he said.
Great leadership required in gaining approval of PSEO--Nathan
gave specific credit to a bi-partisan coalition that included DFL Gov.
Rudy Perpich and Republicans Connie Levi and former Governor Al Quie for
pushing PSEO through the Legislature in 1985, over opposition of almost
all education groups. There also was a broad bi-partisan group of allies
that helped, including the directors of "War on Poverty" agencies,
Minnesota Business Partnership, Minnesota
and a new group of educators, parent and students called "People for
Shortly after the law was passed, a legislator opposed to the
law scheduled a 6 a.m.
hearing for purposes of seeking repeal. But on very short notice more than
100 high school students showed up to support the law, and it has been on
the books since. The state's innovative work in this area inspired the
education community nationally. About 36 states now allow some form of
opportunity for high school students to take college courses, he said.
Other approaches prompted by PSEO
--Nathan cited Minnesota Department of Education figures that more than
Minnesota high school students per year are involved one way or another in
some form of dual high school/college credit programs. About 5,000 of them
are formally enrolled in PSEO. But PSEO has helped stimulate other similar
programs to emerge, such as Advanced Placement, College in the Schools,
and International Baccalaureate, which cumulatively are involving
15-20,000 high school students.
noted that many high schools allow 10th graders to take dual
credit courses on the high school campus in 10th grade, and
some allow 9th graders to take such courses.
not clear how many
students participate in more than one dual high school/college credit
program. "We know, anecdotally, that many students do participate in more
than one dual high school/college credit course," Nathan remarked. For a
comparison of the programs, please see:
Support for PSEO in post-secondary schools varies--Northwestern
College, Roseville; Concordia University, St. Paul, St. Cloud State and
the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and Morris are among
post-secondary schools that are most welcoming of PSEO, Nathan said.
Northwestern offers its PSEO classes online. Morris also makes extensive
use of online classes for PSEO students. Nathan said that colleges
sometimes limit PSEO enrollment to those classes where more students can
be added without having to add another section, with another teacher,
which would increase expenses for the post-secondary school. Each college
and university makes its own decision on whether credits earned by PSEO
students will count toward a degree.
Strong student and family support evident--Nathan
cited surveys done by the Center for School Change revealing that 82
percent of participant families and 97 percent of high school students in
PSEO are highly supportive of the program. One area of concern has been
noted, however: more clarity on transferability of college credits to
other post-secondary schools is needed, he said.
With assistance from the Minnesota Department of Education, the
Center for School Change helped create several "you tube" interviews with
satisfied PSEO students are available at the Center for School Change
website. This includes one in Spanish with English subtitles. See:
Restrictions in participation imposed--Regrettably,
he said, greater restrictions have been imposed since 1985. At first
anyone could participate. The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities now
limits PSEO participation to students who are generally in the top 10
percent of their classes, he said. He hopes the new president of the U of
M will re-examine such restrictions. Among schools in the MNSCU system
(state universities, community colleges, and technical colleges), PSEO
students must be in the top one-third of their class if juniors and top
one-half if seniors or have a certain minimum score on a college entrance
test. It's unfortunate, he said, that more credence isn't given to
research the reveals the greatest benefit of PSEO might be to lower
achievers in high school.
Line blurred between high school and college-Nathan
was asked whether PSEO might lead to some structural change in the
relationship between high schools and colleges, so that more students
might finish high school and college in fewer years. He replied that
informally dual-enrollment approaches are accomplishing change in actual
practice without an official change in structure.
PSEO enrollment trends mixed--In
recent years there has been a slight decline in number of high school
students enrolled in the official PSEO program, although total number
involved in some form of post-secondary connection has grown slightly. The
proportion of students of color participating has increased slightly, he
said. There have been major increases in numbers of students taking
College in the Schools, Advance Placement, International Baccalaureate or
Project Lead the Way courses. There also have been significant increases
in students from low-income families and students of color participating
in these courses. The Center for School Change will issue a report
describing details of this, later in the fall.
district support varies--The
South Washington County school district is a model of getting information
out to students to consider post-secondary options, Nathan said, largely
because of the leadership of (former) Supt. Tom Nelson. Some charter,
alternative and district public schools strongly encourage students to
participate in PSEO.
However,some school districts, fearful of losing state aid if
many students choose PSEO, limit the rights of such students to engage in
extra-curricular activity, Nathan said. Or, in calculating official grade
point averages, school districts have lowered the grade point for PSEO
classes at less than that of dual credit courses taken in the high school.
Job preparation trumps cost savings--While
PSEO can significantly reduce the expenses of high school and college
combined, its main objective is not to save money, Nathan said. The
objective is to help more students enroll in post-secondary education.
This will help students be more prepared for some form of higher
education, help increase the likelihood that students will actually
graduate. Nathan also cited the urgent need for such education for jobs in
However, cost savings are apparent. PSEO has a positive effect
on holding down the number of years required for education, he said. PSEO
enrollees are much more likely to finish college in not more than four
years than are those who did not take PSEO classes. PSEO also reduces the
need for remedial courses in reading, writing and math, which many
colleges need to offer for incoming first-year students. Nathan said the
latest U. of M./MNSCU research shows that 38% of
high school grads who entered
Minnesota public colleges within a year of high school graduation must
take remedial courses when they enter college or university.
Implications of PSEO for the state's economy--Listeners
at today's session discussed briefly the impact of PSEO on the state's
economy. They wondered whether greater coordination between high schools
and technical colleges would be helpful in getting more high-school
graduates into some appropriate post-secondary training. They also
considered whether post-secondary schools should be more welcoming of
under-achieving high school students and speculated whether such changes
might improve the work-readiness of a segment of the state's work force
that is chronically difficult to employ.
behalf of the Civic Caucus, Verne thanked Nathan for meeting with us