The goal for any school district is to see its students succeed as productive members of society. While that goal does not change, sometimes the methods of how to help students obtain that goal can change.
For many college-bound students at Smithton High School, the method of helping them obtain college credit while still in high school recently underwent a change that has proven to be a positive move for all involved.
“Last year our new superintendent (Dr. Matt Teeter) asked us to look at all of our programs and see if there weren’t other ways we could approach what we were doing,” Smithton High School Principal Jonathan Petersen said. “He challenged us by saying that just because we have always done something or did it in a certain matter was that really the best or most efficient way to do it, what he really wanted us to do was look at all our options.”
Smithton had offered ITV classes for juniors and senior students for a number of years, typically enrolling 35 percent students yearly in the dual-credit classes they offered.
This year both the number of classes offered and the number of students who are taking advantage of the program has increased significantly because of Smithton’s program evaluation and the involvement of State Community College.
“SFCC dual-credit opportunities allow eligible high school students to simultaneously earn high school and college credit by taking classes at their high school and online,” according to Michele Hunolt, Admissions and Outreach Coordinator at SFCC. “It is possible for students who earn college credits as a high school student to also graduate with the Missouri general education transfer and, or, a two-year Associate of Arts degree from SFCC at the same time.”
The college offers 140 different courses in its 14-county service area, according to Hunolt.
During the 2015-16 school year 1,646 students enrolled in classes, which equated to 9,650 credit hours.
Hunolt added that faculty teaching the dual-credit courses must have 18 or more graduate credit hours or a graduate degree in the discipline they teach.
“After speaking with a representative at State Fair last year, we realized that we had eight teachers on our staff who are certified to teach dual-credit classes here in Smithton,” Peterson said. “Seven of our teachers teach classes from SFCC and one is teaching classes from Central Methodist University.
“We have a total of 54 students enrolled who are taking classes through State Fair and 23 who are taking classes through CMU,” he added. “Our dual-credit is up significantly from previous years — 69.6 percent of our juniors and seniors are participating in dual credit classes.”
Students in grades nine through 12 are eligible to take classes as part of the program but typically only juniors and seniors meet the ACT or Compass (Accuplacer) test scores required for the classes.
A second reason is that only upperclassmen enroll is the number of required classes for freshmen and sophomores often prohibits them from taking elective classes during their first two years of high school.
According to Petersen, there are several benefits for the students with the new method of presenting the dual credit classes.
“Time is precious for all students but this is a way for them to get some of the classes they will need to take in college out of the way while they are still in high school,” Petersen said. “They really have to figure out how to manage their time because they are on a college schedule to a certain degree.
“We are teaching them a college curriculum so they only have the actual class three days a week but during the two ‘off’ days we are adding enrichment to the curriculum, which really benefits the students,” he added. “It helps too because they initially may not understand what being a college student actually involves; this gives them a taste of what that are responsible for.”
Petersen commented that the high school students have to fill out all the required college paperwork but also receive all the perks of being a student at SFCC.
“I think some of our students have already used their college ID’s to go to some soccer games and cheer on some of our graduates who play for SFCC,” Petersen said. “They have the benefit of the cost savings of the classes that students receive while still in high school. The classes typically run about ($228 for a three-credit hour class) and I think both the students and their parents appreciate that.
“We did so because this seems to be the best option for our students — we have teachers here, in house, who can help the students when they have questions and support them as they work through their college classes.”
All 11 Kaysinger Conference Schools participate in the dual-credit program in some capacity, Hunolt said, as do a number of students who are home-schooled.
“Our dual-credit program is growing primarily due to the relationships we are building with our high schools and our College Connections Program,” Hunolt said. “A large part is also the desire of high school students who want to get a jump start on their college education.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.