Advanced high school courses could be at risk under new standards

indiana-coursesIndiana state education officials are working on a plan to address tighter academic standards for those teaching Indiana high school classes in which students also can earn college credit.

Many K-12 and college educators are concerned that the new standards will lead to a drop in dual-credit offerings and a reduction in the number of students who successfully transition to college.

“There is alarm out there at the school level,” Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers said. “This will have a detrimental effect on dual credit in our state.”

The expected change was a major topic of discussion when the Indiana Commission for Higher Education met at Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend.

The Higher Learning Commission, the accreditation agency for Indiana colleges, says by fall 2017 those teachers must have a master’s degree and at least 18 credit hours in the subject they’ll be teaching. If the policy change stands, many teachers now teaching such classes may be forced to stop teaching them, reducing the number of dual-credit offerings.

The change comes as dual-credit classes have grown across the state — from about 12,000 students taking such courses in 2011 to nearly 30,000 in 2014.

The state doesn’t yet know how many teachers don’t have the credentials to meet the expected new standards, Lubbers said. The higher education commission is gathering that data.

Career and technical education training would be exempt from the requirement. For example, a teacher teaching a college-level welding course wouldn’t be required to have a master’s degree in welding.

“My son is a better student because of the dual-credit courses he took in high school. It made him understand why he needs to study harder (in college),” commission vice chair Dan Peterson said.

The commission staff is gathering information about the standards required by regional accrediting agencies that oversee other areas of the country. There will be much more discussion about this issue in the coming months, Lubbers said.

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