In a packed hearing room Thursday in St. Paul, the House and Senate Higher Education Committees held a joint hearing to address the newly required regulation by the Higher Learning Commission and its effects on students and teachers in concurrent enrollment in Minnesota. The Commission defended its position while more than 40 Minnesotans shared the value of the current program.
HLC Defends Position
Barbara Gellman-Danley, president of the Higher Learning Commission, was the first to testify. She defended 18 credits in the content field or a masters in the content field as determined by HLC. She stated there would be a four-year “grace period,” and encouraged Minnesota stakeholders to work together to meet this standard.
She admired our passion and “applauded” the excellent University of Minnesota CIS program of communications and support from the University to high school teachers, but shared that is different than graduate credits in the field.
When pressed to defend the standard with research, President Gellman-Danley stated, “This is a historical way higher education operates. I hope you respect that this means something…. and HLC cannot negotiate with a state committee.”
Many Ask Why
Following her testimony and committee member questions, more than 40 public testifiers addressed the committee. This testimony came from former and current students, teachers, college professors, principals, superintendents, and a parent, from rural, urban and suburban schools.
They all described the positive outcomes of Minnesota’s current dual credit courses, how very few current high school teachers who are successfully teaching these courses have the paper credentials to continue, and repeatedly asked after decades of success, why change now.
Summarizing three hours of this public testimony, Senator Carla Nelson observed, “No evidence was presented to support that enforcing the policy will do any better than what we are doing now. No evidence that this [newly enforce requirement] will make concurrent enrollment better…. Since I am from a major medical area [Rochester] this is similar to a doctor prescribing a drug, but they don’t know if the drug is effective.”
She concluded by asking HLC to “strongly consider exempting dual-credit from this credentialing standard.”
The dialogue between Senator Nelson and President Gillman-Danley is a clash between doing things based on historical practice vs. making evidence-based decisions to solve problems; and why coming to Minnesota to say this is the way we always done it, is not an acceptable answer.
MREA will continue to track this issue. We want to thank school leaders, teachers and students from MREA member districts Windom, Canby, Park Rapids, Byron, Chatfield, and Pequot Lakes who provided excellent testimony. The full hearing is archived here.