Guest column: College in schools provides new choice for students

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 20, 2002

Choice is a key principle in what’s supposed to be available in education for students and parents in Minnesota these days.

Albert Lea is proud to announce that through its partnership with Riverland Community College, the district is able to offer even more choices to juniors and seniors to fulfill their graduation requirements.

College in the Schools is a program Riverland and Albert Lea High School are making available to juniors or seniors. It allows students in approved high school classes the opportunity to do college-level work in the high school setting and then to receive their grade in the class as both a high school credit and a college credit. Students earn GPA points for each course with only one set of class assignments, if they complete the assignments appropriately.

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Programs such as this one exist in other high schools in partnership with some colleges. Among the 34 institutions in the Minnesota college system known as MNSCU, nine colleges choose to participate in College in the Schools, a part of the PSEO legislation called concurrent enrollment. Albert Lea is fortunate that Riverland


College in the Schools provides students the opportunity to enroll in college classes at the same time they enroll in a coordinated high school class. Students must apply to Riverland, pass entrance testing and enrollment regulations required for admission, including earning a passing score on the Accu-placer test in math and English, have a specific GPA dependent on their grade in school, and abide by other college regulations while in the class.

Only juniors and seniors are eligible to participate.

The advantage of College in the Schools is that the student stays in contact with classmates and regular high school activities.

Announcements about school events, such as Homecoming, Prom and Graduation are not missed. Band, choir, and other college prep electives and vocational electives are still available within the regular school schedule and don’t have to be abandoned because of driving time. Students do not have any car expenses driving themselves to Austin and parents do not have to worry about their student on icy or snowy roads through the winter. Parents achieve the tuition savings they associate with the Post-secondary program. College in the Schools is a win-win situation for students and parents. It requires a great deal of extra work for the high school, for the teachers who teach the approved courses, and for the Riverland admissions staff and faculty.

Albert Lea students are extraordinarily lucky to have so many high school faculty who have the educational credentials that qualify them to teach college level classes. In general, teachers for College in the Schools must have at least a masters degree in the field in which they will teach. High school faculty must prepare a portfolio describing their course syllabus, their textbook, their standards, their major assignments and projects and submit it to Riverland faculty. Riverland faculty in turn must take time to meet within each department where a proposal is offered and determine if indeed a proposed high school course legitimately meets the requirements of content, credentials, and rigor to qualify as a College in the Schools program.

Albert Lea High School has had one class participating in this program for several years. Bob Rowe, a veteran math teacher, has offered Advanced Placement Calculus for many years. In that class students are taught the calculus they need to succeed at college. Many of them take the AP exam in May and in that manner may earn credits at their college, but there are many qualifiers, which differ from college or university, to the earning of AP credit. When Mr. Rowe offers the class also as a Riverland College in the Schools class, students’ grades are automatically entered on a college transcript which they can simply continue the next year at Riverland. Credits earned this way may be transferred to most other colleges in the MNSCU system and probably to other Minnesota or out of state institutions.

Through much effort by ALHS and Riverland faculty, College in the Schools will be expanded to include eight more courses for a total of 24 possible college credits. It takes 32 credits to equal about one year of college. This is a real advantage for students willing to do the high level of work required. High school courses which have been aligned with Riverland classes and scheduled for next year include pre-calculus, calculus, AP government, humanities English 12, computer app B, word processing, and accounting A/B. Work also continues for approvals in the future for new concurrent enrollment courses.

Separately from College in the Schools, some ALHS vocational classes have “articulation agreements” with a similar vocational class at Riverland. If students successfully achieve the standards of this class to the high school instructors’ expectations, students are considered to have passed that course at Riverland.

It’s important to note that College in the Schools isn’t for everyone. Being a high school student is what high school is about. College in the Schools is merely one more opportunity ALHS offers students to meet student needs in a changing world.

If you have questions about this program, please contact Judy Knudtson, director of curriculum, at 379-4803 or the high school principals or counselors at 379-5340.