Friday, March 18, 2011

Early Enrollment: On The Rise?

The Davidson Institute graciously sends me a round-up of headlines from gifted and education news every week or so. These stories are usually all over the map -- a profile of a contest winner here, a closure of a gifted program there, often a Jay Mathews column -- but this week there seemed to be a ton of pieces on early or dual enrollment.

The basic idea is that sometimes course work is offered at the high school level or college level that isn't offered at the level below it, and sometimes students are ready for more advanced work in certain subjects, while still desiring a similar-aged peer group. Especially if educational institutions are near each other (a middle school is across the street from a high school; a community college is around the corner from both), why not allow students to take classes at any institution they want?

In Colorado, students can enroll simultaneously in community college and high school classes. The number of students taking college classes, according to this article in the Denver Post, has risen to 6,473 in 2010 from 1,750 five years ago.

Meanwhile in Chicago, according to a brief write-up in the Chicago Tribune, officials are moving toward a gifted middle school program that would enroll 7th graders, and allow them early admission to Lane Tech High School, one of the city's top public schools.

Over in Michigan, another article from ABC local news talks about a Carrollton program which partners with Delta College to allow students to enroll simultaneously in both. Students can graduate in four years with both a high school diploma and an associate's degree. If that's where you want to stop, you already have a credential for job hunting. If you wish to go on to a 4-year college, you can save lots of cash by having the first two years paid for.

Indeed, there are now so many dual enrollment programs in operation that the National Consortium of Early College Programs, which takes a slightly different tack, met last fall to "provide clarity of the traditional mission and purpose of early college." These programs, like Mary Baldwin's Program for the Exceptionally Gifted and Simon's Rock College, have students leave or skip high school completely to enroll in a 4-year college program.

I think all these programs have their places. The community college dual enrollment programs are sometimes aimed at helping at-risk students develop career interests but they can work perfectly fine for gifted high school or middle school students who want more enrichment and advanced course work too. And then some students are prepared to sail over high school, and so traditional early college programs are a great option for them. All of these are great options. And broadly, they help the public and the educational establishment see that just because you are 13-14 years old doesn't mean you have to be in 8th grade, learning a set group of things that only 8th graders are supposed to learn. Better to use all a community's resources.


Visviva said...

As a graduate of the early entrance program at Shimer College, one of the oldest such programs in the US, I am extremely happy to see these alternatives finally getting the attention they deserve. I don't know how I would ever have made it out of high school without the Shimer program, and it has always concerned me that such options were virtually unknown to students and parents who weren't "plugged in" to the gifted community.

(I only hope that we have progressed enough as a society that the hysteria that ultimately blocked Hutchins' visionary program at the University of Chicago will not experience a revival of its own.)

Jennifer Dees said...

Hi, I disagree that "dual enrollment" programs at CCs generally focus on at-risk students. This is the very reason the consortium you linked to tried to clear up the difference between what they do, and the "Early College Initiative," which DOES focus on at-risk students. For years, here in California, gifted homeschoolers have used dual enrollment at CCs as a way of accessing advanced coursework at a young age. It's frustrating that the ECI used the title it did, as it seems the confusion between these two very different paths is only likely to grow.

Jennifer Dees said...

Just to add to my earlier comment -- my daughter has been taking courses at a California CC since age 12. This is very different from at-risk 11th and 12th graders taking courses as part of the Early College Initiative, while still being enrolled in a brick-and-mortar high school. Yet she doesn't have to move away from home as she would with PEG or another 4-yr program. There are many, many gifted homeschoolers using this path to accumulate college credits at young ages.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer writes:>>For years, here in California, gifted homeschoolers have used dual enrollment at CCs as a way of accessing advanced coursework at a young age.>>

In Maryland, they're just starting dual-enrollment. We're homeschooling because our county's public school system absolutely refuses to offer gifted classes (too "elitist", I suppose). I live in an area where three counties meet, and my own county is equally stupid and stubborn about community college, but the other two counties have been very accommodating. The community college tests the potential CC student for basic math and English (the same test anyone else takes), offers a bit of counseling, and lets the student soar. My 15-year-old is so much better served in a CC than he was in traditional school

Anonymous said...

It's also perfectly possible to be both gifted and at-risk; one of my kids will be entering CC soon (at 16, technically still a high-school sophomore) for both reasons. It's an at-risk program, but after the first term you can take what you like and can qualify for.

Anonymous said...

My 15 year old daughter is a PEG at Mary Baldwin. Overall it has been a huge blessing to her - she loves the depth and challenge of the classes and has finally found true peers. I would caution though that it is perhaps not as nurturing an environment as the sales pitch leaves you to believe. Unfortunately most (possibly all?) of the PEG staff seem to have very little understanding of the gifted teen girl mind and don't seem to make an effort to support them in the way I hoped.
I wish more emphasis were put on the needs of exceptional kids - both academic and emotional.

Karen said...

Regarding the above comment from Anonymous...all experiences are unique and the match between the program and the school are paramount for young gifted teen girls.

Our family had a tremendous experience with the Mary Baldwin PEG program. Our two 2 daughters ages 13 and 15 attended which opened up a world of opportunites for them. It was a life altering experience for both of them. We found the PEG staff extremely supportive and very highly experienced with the special needs of gifted girls I think each family develops their own relationships with the staff and professors and the resulting experience most definitely reflects these efforts.

I'm happy to discuss the program in depth with anyone who would like to contact me off list, and I highly recommend it for the right families. For gifted girls in the U.S. seeking a residential early entrance education, it is a gem of a program serving a very under-represented group of young women.

Holly said...

Karen, I would love to talk about the PEG program with you. My seventh grade daughter is very interested in going there. I have never been a member of a forum like this and am not sure how to contact members?


Bone & GatorGal said...

Please contact me too. I have been looking into the PEG program for my daughter for next year.