A sustained multi-year effort to broaden access to dual and concurrent enrollment courses for urban high school students is showcased in a case study of Memphis City Schools released today by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP). To realize its goals, Memphis City Schools reduced financial and other barriers to student participation, developed partnerships and administrative structures to support schools, and built community support to sustain the initiative.
The report, Expanding Access to Dual Enrollment and College: A Case Study of Memphis City Schools by Elisabeth Barnett and Jennifer Kim of the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools and Teaching (NCREST) at Columbia University's Teachers College, was commissioned by NACEP to help educators nationwide learn from Memphis' experience as they implement strategies to increase the availability of dual and concurrent enrollment coursework for a broader range of students. "We know that high quality dual and concurrent enrollment can have a powerful impact on students' postsecondary success, yet few opportunities are available in the nation's large urban school districts. Even when those opportunities are present, they tend to be available only to select students in relatively well-off schools," remarked NACEP Executive Director Adam Lowe. "This report shows that it takes a concerted community-wide effort to ensure that students who will benefit the most from these programs have access to them. We hope it will inspire other communities to follow suit."
Since the initiative began, Memphis City Schools increased the number of postsecondary institutions offering dual enrollment courses in the district from two to six and made courses available in 36 of 46 high schools in the district, including all eight high schools identified by the State of Tennessee as "Priority Schools" due to persistent low performance. Over a four year period the number of students participating district-wide increased by 45%.
In fall 2013, Memphis City Schools merged with the Shelby County School District. Dr. Roderick Richmond, Chief Academic Officer of Shelby County Schools, stated, “Dual enrollment at Shelby County Schools continues to expose and open up possibilities for our students. Through dual enrollment, they gain confidence and come to see themselves as fully capable of being successful in college. For many of our students, they will be first generation college graduates, and this opportunity provides them with a much needed advantage. As such, we’ve made it a priority to support the ongoing growth and success of the program in our schools.”
Key findings from the report:
- Memphis’ dual enrollment program offers authentic college course experiences to high school students, the majority of whom are from groups traditionally underserved in higher education.
- Support from district leadership, including successive superintendents and deputy superintendents, played a vital role in making sure that the initiative was prioritized and adequately resourced.
- Dual enrollment programs contribute to the development of a college-going culture in Memphis high schools, including in those schools that are identified by the state as low-performing.
- While access to dual enrollment is often limited to students who earn high grades or scores on ACT tests, Memphis found ways to enroll a wider range of students.
- Memphis structured its program to maximize access to dual enrollment courses by forming and strengthening partnerships and establishing effective administrative structures.
- Emily Carter, Tennessee Department of Education
- Patrice Watson, Tennessee Department of Education
- Dr. Elisabeth Barnett, National Center for Education, Schools and Teaching (NCREST) at Teachers College, Columbia University
- Joyce C. Mitchell, Shelby County Schools