Sometimes Albert Lea High School is actually Riverland Community College
Published 12:29 pm Friday, April 10, 2015
Students challenged with tough classes
Preparing for college may seem daunting for some seniors, but two Albert Lea students are taking an academic approach to it.
Emily Solum and Megan Lindely have taken a number of advanced classes for gifted and talented students at Albert Lea High School — classes that can help them prepare for college and even beyond that.
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“It’s more than just school learning; you apply it in life,” Lindely said.
The advanced classes Solum and Lindely have taken are College in the Schools and Advanced Placement.
College in the Schools — or CIS, as students and faculty call it — is offered at Albert Lea High School through Riverland Community College. The classes are taught at the high school by ALHS faculty.
Students must be in the top third of their sophomore class, the top half of their junior class and score at college level on the Accuplacer test to be eligible for CIS courses.
CIS courses offered at ALHS are Humanities English 12, Writing College Papers, Pre-Calculus A, Pre-Calculus B, Humanities Social 11, Intro to Computers and Microsoft Word.
Grossklaus also said there are firefighter and certified nursing assistant classes at the high school that are offered through Riverland.
In addition to CIS classes, the high school offers three Advanced Placement classes: calculus, biology and government.
Solum said she likes her CIS and AP classes because it helps her prepare for the future and save money once she graduates and goes to college.
Lindely said she likes to be challenged and work for her grades, and believes that her experience with AP and CIS will reduce the reality check she might get at college.
Solum and Lindely have taken AP biology, Writing College Papers, Humanities Social 11, Humanities English 12 and AP government.
The CIS and AP classes are for students who could be considered gifted and talented; however, these students aren’t sorted or put into a separate group, Albert Lea High School Principal Mark Grossklaus said.
Rather, the students select which classes, tests and opportunities they want to pursue. Besides CIS and AP classes, there is the College Level Examination Program and extracurricular activities such as the math team, Knowledge Bowl, chess club and First Robotics, among others.
Though they both offer college credit, Grossklaus said there is a difference between CIS and AP classes.
CIS classes are similar to what college coursework is. Faculty that teach CIS classes need a master’s degree or higher and students get dual credit with Riverland.
AP classes give students high school credit, and students can earn college credit by taking the AP test for the class. The AP test holds weight throughout the country, Grossklaus said, and a college can look at a student’s AP test and offer credit for a course.
Grossklaus said Advanced Placement classes are also higher rigor than College in the Schools classes.
In the realm of language, College Level Examination Program, or CLEP, is the AP of Spanish at the high school, Grossklaus said. Students in Spanish levels 4 and 5 are the most prepared to take the CLEP test to earn college credit, he said, but the exam is not required to pass the class.
In addition to in-the-classroom programs, Grossklaus said the high school also has a Lead the Way Program that infuses industrial technology in the school.
Students in the child development class work at the preschools and shadow the caretakers to learn, and this has received great feedback from the community.
“The community has been very good to the high school,” Grossklaus said.
Students can also go through the youth apprenticeship program with the Workforce Center at Riverland to get internships at businesses around town. This is ideal for students interested in going to work after high school rather than college, Grossklaus said, as a four-year university isn’t the answer for every student.
If CIS, AP, CLEP or the other programs at the school aren’t the right fit for a student, they can enroll in a Post-secondary Enrollment Option to take courses at a university. Most students go to Minnesota State University in Mankato, Grossklaus said.
There are about 70 students involved with CIS and five involved with PSEO, Grossklauas said.
“We’re the right size school to give kids different opportunities,” he said.
Jim Haney is a CIS instructor at the high school who teaches Humanities Social 11 and AP government. Each class earns a student six credits from Riverland.
Haney, who has been with the district for 25 years, said the biggest difference between a CIS or AP class and a regular class is increased reading and writing.
For example, students in AP government read “1984” and have to do a critical book review on a nonfiction history or government book of their choosing. Humanities Social 11 students write a research paper that focuses on a topic between 1946 to the present and read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”
Humanities Social 11 students also do an extensive research project with a mentor from the Freeborn County Historical Museum. Students research for three to four weeks and then put on a history day for fifth-graders.
Haney said the kids like the project, though it is a lot of work. But what they get out of it are speaking, research and group-work skills, he said.
“We want them to be prepared as they possibly can for the next academic step,” he said.
Solum and Lindely — who are both in Haney’s AP government class — feel that their experience with CIS and AP courses are doing just that, but they noted the classes force students to come up with study habits.
“You have to learn them fast,” Lindely said.
Lindely said she needed flashcards to learn while Solum said writing notes and reading them over helped her retain the information.
In addition to studying for tests more, Lindely and Solum said their longest paper they had to write was 10 pages. In Writing College Papers, they said they had papers once a week but those essays were no more than three pages.
What will happen after graduation for these two prepared seniors?
Solum said she’s headed to Winona State University to study education. Lindely said she’s going to Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for business and Spanish.
70 Students participating in the College in the Schools courses at Albert Lea High School in 2014-15
10 Pages of the longest paper Albert Lea seniors Emily Solum and Megan Lindely ever had to write
5.7 Average credits a student can earn from a College in the Schools or AP course at ALHS