Voinovich School evaluates dual enrollment program in Appalachian Ohio school districts

Daniel Kington
February 24, 2016

Preliminary results of an evaluation of a program that brings college-credit courses to southeastern Ohio high schools show that it increases enrollment in such programs — and suggest that its innovative format is catching on with teachers and students alike.

Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs is evaluating the program, a partnership between Shawnee State University and 13 Appalachian Ohio school districts. Funded by a grant from the Ohio Department of Education’s Straight A Fund, the project allows students to earn college credit for courses led by highly qualified teachers.

The evaluation team is led by senior project manager Margaret Hutzel, with Associate Professor Marsha Lewis and Undergraduate Research Scholars Phoenix Crane and Nicole Baker.

Although students in these districts previously had the option to enroll in post-secondary educational opportunities by taking classes at local colleges and universities, offering college courses within the high schools themselves has resulted in a tremendous increase in the number of students pursuing dual enrollment, as shown by the data collected as part of the evaluation that Voinovich School staff are conducting.

For example, in the 2013–14 school year, one participating district had no students enrolled in dual-enrollment coursework; however, following the implementation of this program the next year, 131 students enrolled in dual enrollment courses. Another district went from four students to 152.

Locating the courses within high schools isn’t the only innovative aspect of the program. The courses are “flipped”: Instead of listening to lectures in class and completing work on their own outside it, students in a flipped course watch recorded video lectures outside of class and complete independent work within class. The format allows teachers to work more closely with students.

“Upfront, I would say that there is more of a time investment required for teachers using the flipped format,” Hutzel said. “But we’ve heard a lot of teachers say that they really prefer it, and that they get more one-on-one time with the students when they’re in the classroom.”

One participating teacher said, “The kids were able to watch the lecture video and—if they missed something—pause it, go back, re-watch it. Then I was able to answer any questions that they had in class. We were able to get through much more than what we would have, just doing it the traditional way.”

Teachers themselves benefit from this program as well. To implement the courses effectively, they receive professional development training from Shawnee State in the flipped learning method. In addition, because high school teachers are required to have 18 credit hours in a subject matter at a master’s degree level in order to teach college-level courses, many teachers involved in the project also receive funding to support their continuing education.

One major concern throughout the project has been accessibility, because the program’s flipped method is technology-based.

“These are districts in Southeast Ohio, many of them rural, high-poverty districts,” Hutzel said, “So it is a challenge. These are by no means affluent districts. And yet, the majority of teachers I’ve talked to have said, yes, we are using the flipped method.”

To resolve accessibility concerns, some districts burn lectures onto CDs or DVDs so that students who may not have a computer at home can still watch or listen to the lectures. Participating districts also have ensured that students can access school computers outside of school hours by providing lab time.

“I think it’s a really successful model,” Hutzel said. “These districts are now ahead of the curve.”

Having demonstrated the effectiveness of offering the courses in high schools, the Voinovich School will now start gathering data to determine if there is a subsequent increase in students’ eventual enrollment at colleges and universities. Anecdotally, Hutzel said that the interviews the evaluation team is conducting with teachers and administrators show that they believe students are now more likely to go on to enroll in post-secondary education.

“It’s a great program to give students a shot at college who might not have had the opportunity to go to college, either based on family hindrances, or their mental hindrances,” one teacher said. “And they can say, ‘Hey, I can do this.’ It gives them that extra boost that they may not have had earlier.”

Undergraduate Research Scholars Phoenix Crane and Nicole Baker have both been heavily involved in interviewing teachers and administrators working with the program. They are currently creating summaries of responses to evaluation questions.

“It has been interesting for me to hear the teachers commenting on the difficulties, and the benefits the program offers,” Baker said. “These interviews add a personal component that I really like. I also think it's really reassuring to hear about students directly benefiting from this program by furthering their education.”

Crane also said that she has enjoyed the interviewed process, and agreed that the work was very gratifying.

“I like knowing that this project is helping high school students become more prepared for college and that teachers involved in the program are furthering their education and credentials,” Crane said.