Thank you for raising your voices to and regarding the Higher Learning Commissions’ recent decision affecting the ability of students to earn college credits while in high school. Teachers of any college credit class, including concurrent enrollment classes, now would need to have a masters in the discipline or 18 credits in the discipline beyond a masters not in the discipline. Since MREA and others have raised this issue, here’s a look at the chorus of protest we have heard:
“In Windom, this rule change will eliminate more than 30 high quality credits that meet the same standard as on-campus courses…. This decision will do nothing more than limit opportunities for students who need to see the possibilities of a college education. Our affluent families will pursue their PSEO option to drive 30-75 miles to a college campus to take the courses they choose. This will again create a large achievement gap.” – Wayne Wormstadt, Superintendent, Windom Area Schools
“With the new set of standards, all seven of our CIS classes will be eliminated. In the next 3 years, I only see one course that would be able to be brought back. Other schools our size will be in a similar situation. In my 26 years in administration, I haven’t seen a single decision that will have such a negative impact on students and their families as the Higher Learning Commission has imposed upon us.” – Randy Paulson, High School Principal, Chatfield High School
“Minnesota has long been a state where expanding opportunities for students is of utmost importance. These guidelines, as written, will seriously curtail student opportunity and impede their ability to gain the educations they deserve.” – Lori Lovdahl, Parents United Executive Director
Both major Minnesota newspapers wrote front page articles on this ruling and protest from the Minnesota K-12 community. Read the articles the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press. Joe Nathan also wrote a column on this issue.
Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius summed up the feelings of K-12 educators when she was quoted in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Sept 11. Many dual-credit course teachers have taught for years and have proved that they can teach a college-level course, she said. “There are so many things that account for what makes a great teacher, and the only thing the HLC is accounting for is whether you have 18 credits.”
A Big Problem
How big a problem will this be? MASA informally surveyed superintendents last week. Thirty-one Greater Minnesota superintendents responded. In those 31 districts, 193 high school licensed teachers are teaching concurrent enrollment courses. Only 33 teachers, or 17 percent, currently meet the HLC standard.
Southwest Minnesota State University Concurrent Enrollment Coordinator Kimberly Guenther says HLC’s action is a huge change. “There are not programs to get this credentialing in a manner that would work for teachers even if they wanted to [meet the requirements].”
This tsunami of protest led Senator Terri Bonoff and Rep. Bud Nornes, Chairs of the Minnesota Senate and House Higher Education Committees, to send a joint letter inviting the HLC to a legislative joint committee meeting to explain their decision, their rationale, and allowable exemptions. The letter in part states:
“For the past thirty years, the State of Minnesota has developed and invested in educational programming that delivers dual credits for students. Education stakeholders in Minnesota believe that this new [Higher Learning Commission] policy may have a crippling effect on a number of these successful dual credit programming.”