Published Feb. 25, 2021
By Martin Sevcik
Next year, Carmel High School will offer a new dual-enrollment statistics course, where seniors will be able to take a Monterey Peninsula College course and earn college credits all without leaving CHS campus. Administrators first experimented with dual-enrollment courses during the 2019-20 school year, offering MPC U.S. History and sports medicine programs to interested students.
Traditionally, a CHS student seeking college credits would take an AP course, where credits are handed out based on the score the student earns on the comprehensive AP test taken at the end of the year. With dual-enrollment courses, a student simply needs to pass the course to earn college credits, leading to the belief among administrators and teachers that dual-enrollment courses are more accessible.
With this new statistics course, CHS has indicated that these courses are not going away. What purpose will the new course hold in the CHS ecosystem? And what lessons can be learned from the already existing courses?
Math teacher Dawn Hatch is excited to begin teaching the new statistics course, which she advocated for and largely developed. This program ostensibly serves as an alternative to AP Statistics, but administrators see it as having a greater purpose.
“One is not replacing the other. These are two distinct programs,” CHS Principal Jon Lyons explains. “It’s to create a fourth-year statistics option for students who maybe don’t want to go on to pre-calculus, but also don’t want the intensity of the AP-level coursework.”
In order to ensure that this course fulfills this intended purpose, administrators are allowing only seniors to take next year’s course. Hatch, who first introduced the idea for the addition, justifies this change by explaining that AP courses tend to be less effective for seniors than for other grade levels.
“The reality is that by the time the AP test rolls around, most seniors have already determined where they’re going, whether or not they care about the AP credit,” Hatch says. “The pass rate on the AP test for statistics, at least when I was teaching it, for seniors was not a very good pass rate.”
Besides the test, the structure of the dual-enrollment course distinguishes it from the AP option. Rather than teach two semester-long MPC courses, CHS will have students take a non-honors statistics applications course before delving into the MPC course in the spring. Hatch is developing materials with the counseling department that easily outline these differences for next year’s students.
MPC U.S. History
As a replacement for a core academic course, perhaps it’s best to compare the incoming statistics course with dual-enrollment U.S. History, a course that has seen wild success within its first two years on campus.
MPC U.S. History was introduced for the 2019-20 school year and has served as the flagship dual-enrollment course for CHS, an alternative for AP U.S. History, with both courses featuring the same content and promising college credits for successful students.
But from a teacher’s standpoint, the courses function very differently.
“The biggest overall difference is that we are not held accountable to the standards of the AP curriculum or the AP test, and that frees us up to teach the content the way we want to teach it,” U.S. history teacher Joe McCarty says. “Obviously, MPC has some guiding standards. This is a survey U.S. history course that all college freshmen have to take, so there are some basic standards, but nothing like AP.”
McCarty and fellow instructor Marc Stafford believe that creating MPC U.S. History allowed more students to take a college-level history course. Students who would have otherwise taken a non-honors course may be more inclined to take the dual-enrollment course over the AP course.
“I’ve talked to students for whom this might be the case,” Stafford says. “They might push themselves to take MPC and be stoked to get a C because their plan is MPC anyways, and now they’ve knocked out one of their requirements. We hope it might diversify our college-going culture.”
There is evidence to suggest that this diversification has happened. This year, CHS is offering six periods of MPC U.S. history, zero periods of AP and just two periods of college-prep, the non-honors alternative.
“Our regular college-prep U.S. history classes have basically been decimated this year,” says McCarty, who does not believe this shift is permanent. “I think it will even out a little more next year. I think there were some kids who went for MPC and realized it was a little harder than they thought.”
For McCarty and Stafford, this demographic shift is in some ways a blessing. Both say they enjoy teaching the MPC dual-enrollment program more than they did the AP program, and they feel better about the flexibility available to them.
MPC Sports Medicine
But where one course has developed flexibility in the transition to MPC, another has found itself limited by its new dual-enrollment status.
Matt Borek began teaching sports medicine at Carmel High in 2003, and he says there has always been some pressure to coordinate with MPC to transform his course into a dual-enrollment program. Borek was hesitant to make such a drastic change to his program.
“With sports medicine, I have students who are aspiring to be doctors, and I have students who just need sports medicine because they get high school science credit,” Borek explains. “I felt like the change to MPC would only be catering to the upper end and we might lose some of the lower end. That’s not what I wanted. I didn’t want to limit access.”
After a hiatus teaching another course, Borek returned to sports medicine in 2017 under then CUSD superintendent Barb Dill-Varga. According to CHS assistant principal Craig Tuana, the former superintendent advocated strongly for dual-enrollment courses, focusing on MPC Sports Medicine as a way for students entering the medical field to earn college credits. CHS began offering the course in the 2019-20 school year as a replacement for the first-year sports medicine course.
Borek’s concerns came to fruition. The small size of the sports medicine program only allowed CHS to offer the dual-enrollment option. The new course was harder and expected students to understand anatomy as a prerequisite. Students’ grades fell significantly.
There were other issues as well. Where Stafford and McCarty found flexibility through dual-enrollment, Borek found rigidity and increased pressure.
“I’ve never been a teacher who can just map out the entire semester,” Borek says. “I’ve always been more of a ‘feel’ teacher. If we needed more time, I never had any constraints and could say ‘They’re not getting this, let’s spend another week.’ When I hit MPC, I had a rigid calendar and I had to get through that stuff, so I felt that I was rushed.”
In response to these problems, this year Borek is teaching a non-MPC course during the first semester and an MPC course in the second semester. According to Tuana, this change helped inspire the structure of the new statistics course.
But disaster struck last December when Tuana, the liaison between MPC and CHS, received word that students would not be receiving credit for the spring semester MPC course. This was because the MPC kinesiology department had begun offering their equivalent course in the fall and had failed to communicate this change to CHS until it was too late. With these mismatched semesters, MPC could no longer award credits.
The Future of Dual Enrollment
While dual-enrollment courses have not entered every student’s schedule, their increasing presence could be a concern for some teachers. To teach a dual-enrollment course, CHS teachers must apply as adjunct professors with MPC, which requires a master’s degree or some equivalent qualification. Some CHS teachers do not meet these requirements.
For the time being, these qualifications have not been a problem. The current CHS administration, headed by Principal Jon Lyons, is working with teachers to focus on MPC courses that would fit well with the school. The dual-enrollment statistics and history courses were conceptualized and developed by CHS staff who were both qualified and excited about the programs.
“Some schools will use dual-enrollment as a way to bring classes onto campus that maybe they can’t offer in the normal run of things,” Lyons says. “The only courses I’m comfortable doing dual-enrollment would be courses taught by our teachers. I don’t want to outsource our teaching to MPC.”
Unsurprisingly, this position is appreciated by CHS teachers.
“I love that,” Stafford says. “I think there’s a lot of teacher support for dual-enrollment because of his position. It just worries me with the…instability or uncertainty at the district level, somebody may come in and say, ‘We’re doing dual-enrollment no matter what.’”
Stafford is referring to the ongoing superintendent search, which will secure a replacement for interim superintendent Trish Dellis, who is set to resign at the end of the 2020-21 school year.
Tuana is having conversations with interested teachers about potentially introducing more dual-enrollment courses, but no concrete plans have yet formed. Administrators are also interested in seeing how the Class of 2021’s college applications turn out, as they’ll be the first wave of students to pass through the dual-enrollment U.S. History course.
Whatever the future holds, dual-enrollment courses are certain to play a role in many students’ schedules in the years to come. Understanding the nuances of these courses from a student and staff perspective will likely allow CHS to better introduce college-level courses to the high school experience.