Teachers spending so students can save

October 19, 2016

Senior+Madie+Kubista+speaking+in+her+college+Public+Speaking+Class+

Bernadette Donlon

Senior Madie Kubista speaking in her college Public Speaking Class

College is on the horizon for many students at the Owatonna High School. The high school teachers and administrators are implementing mottos such as “The Tassel is Worth the Hassle,” and reminding students to always “Keep an Eye on the Prize.” They are pushing students to work to the best of their abilities and that may be one of the biggest reasons many OHS students go on to receive future college degrees. OHS has many programs such as AVID and advanced placement classes for students that encourage a prosperous future in and after college. One of these well known programs is concurrent classes taught at OHS, also called College In the Schools (CIS) classes.

There are concurrent classes taught in various subject fields at OHS. Some of these include English, Math, Biology, Spanish, Human Relations, and Psychology. Students can take advantage of college classes starting their junior year of high school if they have met the criteria needed to be eligible. By taking concurrent classes in high school, students are exposed to higher levels of rigorous learning similar to college while completing required high school classes at the same time. Credits from completed CIS classes can be transferred to a students’ desired university after high school graduation, therefore, saving students money and time. A program that is beneficial to the OHS has an upcoming hitch that students and their families may be facing.

New Requirements

In order to teach a CIS course, teachers must be given approval from the college.  This usually involves sending transcripts and a resume to the school as they would for any teaching job. Teachers are then approved by the college and some requirements are made of the teachers in order to continue in the program.

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) has issued new requirements for 2017. It requires teachers instructing CIS classes to return to school and take a minimum of 18 credits of classes in their specific subject field to continue teaching concurrently. For example, Mrs. Polly Shives is a teacher of various concurrent English subjects. Some of these include: College English, AP Literature and Composition and AP Language and Composition. Shives has been teaching CIS courses at OHS for seven years, but does not currently have a Master’s degree in English. Like many teachers at OHS, she has a Master’s degree in education. This means that by the standards of the HLC document, she wound not be eligible to teach any concurrent subjects. The same dilemma is being faced by other CIS teachers throughout the school.

I find it ironic that I need additional graduate credits when I have a degree in English. I have a graduate degree. I have a degree in Education and I have experience teaching. Meanwhile, graduate assistants may teach English 101 on campus and they have no graduate degree, no teaching certification and no teaching experience. ”

— Mrs. Kristi Rohman

OHS offers courses through Southwest State and Minnesota Statue University, Mankato for a total of 49 credits for OHS students. Mrs. Snyder Roberts is a concurrent teacher, but since she already has a Master’s in Spanish the change will not affect her. The issue at hand is the fact that each of these teachers has been teaching concurrently for numerous years and are now being asked to receive a Master’s to continue teaching to the standard MSU requires. For example, Mr. Andrix, the concurrent Psychology teacher at OHS, has been teaching concurrently for ten years. “Everything we do in here is based off of what they [MSU professors] would approve, and quite frankly, the first or second test my students take professors say are harder than the tests they give,” said Andrix.

Many of the teachers have received similar feedback from MSU professors about their courses. Mrs. Rohman said, “I find it ironic that I need additional graduate credits when I have a degree in English. I have a graduate degree. I have a degree in education and I have experience teaching. Meanwhile, graduate assistants may teach English 101 on campus and they have no graduate degree, no teaching certification and no teaching experience. ”  Minnesota State University, Mankato, has said that they are appealing for an extension from the 2017 deadline.

The Cost

OHS teachers are currently facing the dilemma of whether or not to spend their money out of pocket to go back and get 18 credits in their specific subjects. Each class equaling one credit costs roughly $400. As of right now, the school district has not made a statement if it will be paying any of the total $7,200 it will cost teachers to go and get the full 18 credits. This is creating some uneasiness for teachers considering going back to further their education. For example, Mrs. Shives is debating going back to college to gain a degree in English when she would rather gain a degree in Administration. Either way, she will be paying out of pocket. Many teachers have stated that if the school district does not opt to pay a part of the teacher’s fee for completing the 18 credits, they will not go back to complete their said credits and the concurrent programs may no longer go on. It is possible that the classes will continue to be taught, but students will no longer be able to receive college credit for being in them.

 The concurrent program helps the school district save money by keeping students in the school system instead of participating in PSEO. Students that partake in PSEO have their tuition paid for by the district, if the students are in OHS seats but taking CIS classes, all parties benefit. The rough-estimate calculation of how much money a concurrent classroom saves both the school district and students is about $68,000 annually (based on a class size of 25 students).  CIS is a program that saves students a lot money and gives them the experience of a college classroom in the safety of their high school. If these programs no longer go on, students may not gain college experience or take part in classes up to par with their level of learning.

Enrollment in these classes have been popular with the student body.  There are as many as four sections of the same course being offered each year. These classes are a critical part of the OHS learning environment, and if teachers are faced with these HLC requirements as they are currently being presented, the concurrent program is sure to face challenges. Student would still be able to take Advance Placement classes and take the AP exams as normal, but the credits earned through CIS classes may not continue at OHS.

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