PENDLETON — Allowing students a chance to graduate from high school with college credit is a great opportunity for those wishing to pursue a higher education.
Students can get many core college classes out of the way while in high school at a minimal cost, making college less expensive.
Leaders at Pendleton Heights High School said they have seen increased interest in Advanced Placement (AP) and dual credit classes the past couple of years and are seeking ways to provide students with more such opportunities while in high school.
Pendleton Heights High School Principal Mark Hall recently described the school’s AP and dual credit class offerings, and related successes and challenges, to the South Madison Community School Corp. board during a recent gathering.
For students who are college-bound and want to be challenged, AP and dual credit classes are tremendous learning opportunities, Hall said.
Making sure educators are accredited and able to teach the dual credit classes will be a challenge in the coming years since state officials plan on changing teaching requirements.
School counselor Mike Taylor said there are several reasons it’s important to offer these courses beyond the fact it’s a state requirement.
Students can earn both high school and college credit at a drastically reduced cost, and they get to experience the rigors of a college class while still in high school.
“We have had several students graduate with 20 to 30 dual credits and in turn (they were) able to or had the ability to graduate from college a year early,” Taylor said.
The high school offers 15 advanced placement classes, from biology to microeconomics, but school leaders said the school is always looking to add more. The number of students taking AP classes has grown from 315 in 2013 to 406 in 2017.
Students earn high school credit for AP classes but also earn college credit by passing an end-of-class test with a score of three or better.
Last year, the high school gave 671 AP final tests; of those, 148 scored three or better out of five.
Some of the students take AP final tests to help them meet other college requirements for scholarships and diploma requirements who aren’t necessarily needing to pass, Hall said.
Dual credit classes are different. They are administered by individual colleges or universities through a teacher who has earned a master’s degree.
Pendleton Heights has the third-highest number of students in the state taking dual credit classes from Ball State University, Hall said.
Dual credit students earn high school credit, but they must earn a C or better in the class to get the college credit.
The school offered four such classes and awarded 261 credits in 2008. The number increased to 14 classes and 1,892 credits earned in 2017.
Tuition varies depending on the college offering the class.
At Ball State University, high school students can earn as many as 48 dual credits for a cost of $1,450; taking the same classes as a college student on campus would cost $9,914.
There are issues facing the dual credit program, however, as many local educators will need more schooling — in a few years, they will need a master’s degree in the subject being taught, or a master’s degree and 18 credit hours in a subject, to be able to teach a dual credit class.
Currently, the requirement is just a master’s degree.
Many Pendleton Heights educators have earned a master’s degree in education, but not in a specific field, creating future problems.
There are only two Pendleton Heights High School educators who will meet the new teaching requirements in 2022, causing Hall to be concerned for the program’s future.
“That’s the challenge we’re at now,” Hall said. “Figuring out how we’re going to continue this program and get our teachers certified.”
That’s why it’s important to offer both AP and dual credit classes at the school, Hall said. AP teachers need only a teaching license and class syllabus approval in order to teach those classes.
Hall said he is hopeful officials at the Indiana Department of Education and participating universities will either change future dual credit teaching requirements or provide financial incentives and time for local high school educators to become accredited.