The Minnesota Joint Higher Education Committee held a hearing on Thursday in front of a packed audience on the newly required rules by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) for concurrent enrollment (or dual-credit) high school teachers. The St. Paul Pioneer Press described the ire of Minnesota’s K-12 community. Learn more about the hearing.
Proponents of the HLC decision see it as a way to ensure students have an instructor with adequate credentials in the content area being taught. Opponents, however, see it as making it more difficult for schools to offer CIS courses and that has a direct, negative impact on equal access for historically under-served and under-represented minority students. View MREA’s Twitter feed for more on the hearing.
The response of the K-12 community both at the hearing and afterwards has been marked by a sense of incredulity as the magnitude of this decision sinks in. As former Commissioner of Education Bob Wedl emailed, “I must say that I am shocked at the rationale provided by Dr.Gellman-Danley that we have no research to support our decision but “this is the way higher education operates…. As organizations that lead the world as research institutions one would expect better than that.”
This is felt across all sizes of school districts. In testimony, Rochester Schools Superintendent Mike Munoz stated that it was inconceivable to him why anyone would put barriers in the way of something that has proven to increase the number of children of color going on to post-secondary education. Tom Bruels, superintendent of St. Clair Schools, later echoed these remarks.
Given the attention and strong efforts at the local, state, and federal levels to close the achievement gap (and completion gap) as well as ongoing efforts to make sure that educational opportunities are accessible to all students, it’s troubling that the Higher Learning Commission would continue to advocate for a policy that has the unintended consequence of closing a pathway to post-secondary education for minority students.
Patricia Mohn, former superintendent of Amboy and Good Thunder before the formation of Maple River Schools, shared her perspective as a grandparent: “Both [of our granddaughters] took post-secondary courses while attending New Prague High School and their teachers were at the same level and even above the teaching ability of some college professors. These opportunities need to continue and high schools need to do more to encourage students to enroll in these courses.”
The HLC accredits higher education institutions in 19 states. Only two currently are raising objections and concerns: Minnesota and Indiana. Learn more on Indiana’s concerns.
Second, Minnesota is not speaking with a united voice. Neither the University of Minnesota nor MnSCU sent any official to the Joint Hearing to testify.
Ongoing conversations and collaboration are needed. “While you’re frustrated with us, it’s your colleges and universities you need to work with on this issue,” President Gellman-Danley said.
To prepare for this potential conversation, MREA encourages the K-12 community to familiarize itself with newly released HLC guidelines for Determining Qualified Faculty. This is a dense document with conditions and sanctions. Learn more about the guidelines.
MREA in its advocacy will focus primarily on getting a conversation started between K-12 and higher education leaders. Only united can we propose solutions to the HLC that will work for Minnesota’s learners, universities, school districts and high school teachers. MREA also will work to make connections with rural associations in other states and the federal congressional delegation.