College in the Classroom, a partnership between Clark State Community College and more than 20 school districts in eight counties, offers students the opportunity to earn college credit prior to graduation from high school.
For Shawnee High School in Clark County, this adds up to more than 200 dual-enrolled students earning college credit in 13 different courses this spring semester. In 2014, Shawnee students earned 1,081 college credit hours.
“Shawnee stands out due to the high quality instructors,” said Kristin Skiles, Early College coordinator for Clark State. “The biggest barrier for high schools to offer dual enrollment opportunities in their buildings is the credentialing of instructors.” Skiles explained that high school instructors must meet college guidelines to teach which typically is a master’s degree in content or a master’s degree with 18 semester or 24 quarter hours in content at the graduate level. “It’s a barrier that the state is trying to overcome in the new legislation of College Credit Plus,” Skiles said.
Course content at Shawnee has been aligned to meet course objectives for equivalent Clark State classes. The students receive both high school and college credit.
“All students must apply and meet the necessary testing requirements for the course they are choosing to enroll in,” Skiles said. “Clark State provides these credits free to the high schools until College Credit Plus comes into effect next year, and even then we are keeping costs as low as possible.” However, Skiles also believes it is the personal attention and integrity of the program that keeps school districts in the program year after year.
Elizabeth Nelson, English Department chairman, has been teaching at Shawnee for 28 years. She believes the partnership with Clark State is important because Clark County students see valuable opportunities in the area. “While I appreciate the value of having experiences outside of this community, there is great value in this local experience,” she said. “By easing students into the college experience, they receive the constant attention from teachers and parents, but students are also exposed to the rigor of college work.”
Nelson, who teaches advanced literature, English and compositions courses, communicates with Clark State faculty whenever possible and challenges herself to keep a keen eye on non-fiction and fiction texts that are currently popular at the college level.
“This program is not solely about earning ‘free’ credit, instead it is about fostering a smooth transition from high school to college, and then hopefully keeping Clark County students in Clark County,” said Nelson.
Psychology major Clarissa Vince of Springfield graduated from Shawnee last year with 27 college credits under her belt. She will graduate from Clark State with an associate degree this summer and will then attend Ohio University. “I wanted the best head-start I could get at an affordable cost,” she said. “I will never be able to stress enough the convenience this program offers its students. There are often complications in getting credits to transfer from community colleges to universities, however, Clark State has one of the most transferrable programs to date.”
As a high school educator, Rosina Matthies said her purpose is to prepare students for their next step. “In recent years, I have also developed a stronger sense of community,” she said. “Not only do I need to be preparing my students, but I also need to provide the community in which I live a workforce that will assist in progressing our area.”
Matthies is a 26-year math and pre-engineering teacher at Shawnee and serves as the Math Department chairperson. She said it is important for area educators to have dialogue and form partnerships toward common goals. “This program is not about students getting easy college credit,” she said. “This program is about providing college credit for those students who are able to complete the high expectations of college coursework during high school.”
To ensure success, Matthies maintains regular correspondence with Clark State instructors, as well as staying current and knowledgeable about her disciplines. “By participating in this program, students can make more informed decisions about what and where they should go to continue their education after high school,” she said. “Students and parents have to have a very realistic view of the child’s ability and motivations.”
“The course offerings Shawnee provides to their students is not matched at any other high school that I’ve worked with,” said Skiles. “Shawnee has been financially struggling with levies not passing and having to reduce busing, yet they deliver a high quality education with their qualified instructors and can offer their students up to 30 credit hours that can transfer to other institutions.”