Behind the Scenes: State Policy Workshop

October 28, 2019

-Written by Jennifer Zinth, Zinth Consulting

Do you suffer from the anxiety dream in which you can’t find your way out of the maze of your state’s dual enrollment funding model? Or perhaps you feel a void in your life that only a reliable dual enrollment data reporting system can fill?  Are you searching for a community of others like you who would gladly spend a Sunday learning about and discussing state dual enrollment policies? If so, I hope you were able to join like-minded individuals at NACEP’s 2019 State Policy Workshop. And if you weren’t there—just a few highlights below from this year’s event.

The State Policy Roadmap

Alex Perry of the College in High School Alliance kicked the day off with an overview of the just-released state policy roadmap. This one-of-a-kind resource sets forth policy recommendations in six areas – (1) equity goal and public reporting, (2) program integrity and credit transfer, (3) finance, (4) course access and availability, (5) instructor capacity, and (6) navigational supports – that, taken as a whole, can ensure state policies support equity, access and quality in college in high school programs. After lunch, attendees were refueled and ready to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their own state’s policies against those in the roadmap, and dig deep into potential solutions.

New insights on dual enrollment funding models

Jennifer Zinth, who in 2019 joined the ranks of the self-employed after many years at Education Commission of the States, shared a high-level overview of her (also) just-released report on equity-focused dual enrollment funding models (also funded through the College in High School Alliance/NACEP). Jennifer noted that when she was at ECS, policy makers would regularly ask her, “What’s the ONE best dual enrollment funding model my state can adopt?” Jennifer’s presentation made clear that states need to carefully consider the financial and political tradeoffs of various equity-focused funding models, and that the process is like shopping for jeans – the model that fits your state won’t necessarily work for another state. In the afternoon, panelists from Georgia, Idaho and Indiana – representing differing dual enrollment funding models – shared their candid best practices and cautionary tales from their states’ finance approaches.

Data, data, data

Nationally-recognized dual enrollment researcher Jason Taylor and Jennifer Zinth worked the house with a sneak preview of a dual enrollment data chapter they coauthored for a journal article scheduled for November release (the issue will appear on this page when it goes live). Among many observations, Jason and Jennifer’s presentation noted that of the fewer than 20 robust state- or system-wide, public-facing, dual enrollment data collection and reporting systems:

  • Very few follow students past high school to report on their postsecondary outcomes.
  • Differences in the types of data states collect and how they report those data make it very difficult to make apples-to-apples cross-state comparisons in dual enrollment participation and outcomes.
  • Data infrastructure/availability, data relevance and funding/politics all contribute to whether a state’s dual enrollment data can answer policy-relevant research questions; the answers to those questions can, in turn, inform equity-driven enhancements in dual enrollment policy.

Participants concluded the day considering and sharing on the strengths and weaknesses of their state’s dual enrollment data system, and the policy-relevant research questions they’d like their data system to be able to answer. Perhaps not surprisingly, at the end of the session, the group discussing best practices and cautionary tales had an emphasis on cautionary tales, and the longest list of improvements needed.

If you weren’t available to make it to the 2019 State Policy Workshop, we certainly hope you’ll be able to join us for the event in 2020!