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Bill limiting dual enrollment revived in Georgia legislature

January 16, 2020 Leave a comment

The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports that last year’s bill to limit the dual enrollment program is active again in the state legislature, as I predicted would happen when the bill was tabled late in the 2019 session.

The front-page story in today’s paper recaps what we know from last year: participation in dual enrollment has exploded in recent years, and as a result, the program has blown its allocated budget. The state has already shifted some dual enrollment costs to the colleges and universities that provide the classes, and is looking for additional ways to rein in spending.

As you may remember from the 2019 legislative session, the bill (HB 444) would cap the number of hours of dual enrollment classes that the state would pay for. According to the AJC, students enrolling at four-year colleges and universities would be limited to 15 credit hours per semester and 30 credit hours overall. Caps would be higher for students enrolling in technical education classes at technical colleges.

(Note: The version of the bill posted online shows limits of 16 credit hours per semester and 32 total, but perhaps the AJC reporter knows of a change that hasn’t been posted online yet. Last year, a substitute version of the bill written in the House did set the caps at 15 and 30 hours.)

Students could take classes beyond these “covered” limits, but would have to pay for them out of pocket.

Earlier versions of the bill from 2019 would have allowed students to charge additional dual enrollment classes against their future HOPE scholarship allocations; however, that option was removed during committee rewrites last year.

My position is mostly the same as it was when I posted about this last year. From a practical standpoint, I understand why limits are needed to control costs.

I also think it’s reasonable to have limits. I don’t agree with the parents who wrote to me last year to argue that the state should pay for unlimited college classes for high-school students and then turn around and pay for four full years of college under HOPE as well.

A limit of 30 credit hours works out to 10 college courses taken during high school. That ought to be plenty for students at high schools that offer AP classes in most core subjects.

However, for students in high schools that don’t offer many AP classes, 10 dual enrollment classes might not be enough. These students may have an unmet need for more rigorous classes to adequately challenge them, and if they want to get into selective colleges, they also need to keep up with their peers at bigger and better-performing high schools, who routinely take 15 or more AP classes.

That argument may not get much traction in lobbying legislators, though, because this bill also defines the purpose of the dual enrollment program, and it has nothing to do with providing advanced learning options for gifted students.

The purpose of the dual enrollment program shall be to provide qualified high school students with access to rigorous career and academic courses at higher education institutions in order to increase high school graduation rates, prepare a skilled workforce, and to decrease postsecondary students’ time to degree completion.

Georgia HB 444, Lines 19-22 (emphasis added)

State legislators could argue that providing advanced learning options for gifted students isn’t a state responsibility to be handled through dual enrollment, but rather is the responsibility of local public school systems, as mandated by state law. But, as advocates for the gifted, we need to know that school systems can fulfill the requirements of that law by providing gifted high-school students just one gifted or AP class per semester. That’s not enough for students who need the challenge of college-level coursework.

In my opinion, the 30-hour cap should be put in place for students in high schools with robust AP programs. However, I’d like for students in high schools with limited AP options to be able to apply for exemptions from the credit hours caps, or have the option of tapping into their HOPE funds to pay for classes beyond the caps — at least for classes that are in core academic areas (math, science, English / language arts, and social studies).

Step one, though, would be to convince legislators to amend the bill’s language on the purpose of dual enrollment to include serving Georgia’s gifted and advanced learners.

If you want to take action on this bill

The bill is in the Senate Higher Education Committee. That committee is chaired by Lindsey Tippens, who also is listed as the bill’s sponsor in the Senate. The other members of the committee are:

If one of these legislators represents your senate district, start by e-mailing them.

It’s also not too soon to get in touch with members of the Georgia House of Representatives. On that side, the bill would go through the Education Committee. The committee has 24 members, who are listed on the committee’s web page.

Categories: Advocacy and policy

Recommended reading: The need for gifted education in public schools

December 19, 2019 Leave a comment

If you’re a regular reader of news about gifted education, you know there’s widespread concern about the under-representation of minority and economically disadvantaged students in gifted education programs.

One of the most dramatic and talked about developments in gifted education in 2019 was the finding by a panel in New York City that the gifted programs in the city’s public schools were racially and socioeconomically unequal, and the resulting recommendation by that same panel that gifted programs should be eliminated from all public city schools.

In an article in The Atlantic magazine, Andy Smarick — author of Closing America’s High-Achievement Gap — acknowledges the role of public schools in leveling the playing field for all students, yet warns against shortchanging our brightest kids, as often happens in public schools.

He looks at the lack of structure and funding for gifted education in many states. And, like other advocates for gifted education, he points out that if public schools don’t provide gifted education, those who will suffer most will be the economically disadvantaged, who don’t have as many options for enrichment outside of school.

I recommend taking a few minutes to read the full article. Those of us who advocate for gifted children regularly encounter administrators, teachers, and neighbors who undervalue gifted education and even resent resources being allocated to it. Smarick’s article reminds us that gifted kids, like all kids, deserve the chance to be their best.

Article: The Contradiction at the Heart of Public Education

Categories: Advocacy and policy

Update on Dual Enrollment bill

April 11, 2019 Leave a comment

HB 444, which would have created new guidelines and limitations for Georgia’s Dual Enrollment program — see my prior post for details — was tabled in the Georgia Senate and was not passed into law.

The Senate Higher Education Committee had written a substitute version of the bill, which made some noteworthy adjustments to the version that had been passed by the House. Among them:

  • Ninth and tenth graders could take Dual Enrollment classes at four-year colleges and universities, but only online — not in person on the college campuses. (In the House version, freshmen and sophomores would be ineligible for Dual Enrollment.)
  • Dual Enrollment would be capped at 32 semester hours total, with a maximum of 16 semester hours in any one semester. (The House version of the bill would cap the hours at 30.)
  • The Senate’s version eliminated all language about tapping into a student’s HOPE Scholarship allotment to pay for Dual Enrollment courses beyond the cap of 32 total semester hours. Instead, those additional classes — referred to in the bill as “noncovered dual credit courses” — would be paid at the student’s own expense.

Based on feedback I received in response to my prior post, I imagine the gifted community would prefer the eligibility of freshmen and sophomores that’s contained in the Senate version of the bill, even though it provides for online Dual Enrollment classes only.

Where I think parents of gifted kids won’t be happy with the Senate version is the removal of the option to use HOPE funds to pay for Dual Enrollment. Last month, I heard from some parents who were vehemently against the idea of having extra Dual Enrollment hours charged against their HOPE allotment. I’m guessing they’ll be even unhappier with having out-of-pocket payment as the only option for students who complete much of their high-school coursework by taking college courses.

Personally, I saw the use of HOPE funds as a reasonable compromise. While I recognize there are some highly gifted, highly mature students who are more suited to take their high-school classes in a college setting, I don’t think the state of Georgia should be on the hook to pay for more than one college degree for any student.

Those who contacted me seemed to hold the position that for their children, the Dual Enrollment classes weren’t really a college degree program, but rather a substitute high-school education with a level of rigor that wasn’t being provided through their public school. I sympathize with these parents, but I think that battle should be taken to the public schools, which need to offer appropriate education for all students. If a student truly is ready for full-time, college-level work on a college campus at 15 or 16, then yes, they should be allowed to “Move on When Ready,” to use the former name of Dual Enrollment. However, in doing so, they are in fact moving on to college, essentially skipping high school, and under that circumstance, I think it’s completely appropriate that they utilize the HOPE Scholarship as they embark on their college education.

As I wrote in my previous post, the state wants to adjust the Dual Enrollment program because its popularity is busting its allocated budget. For that reason, I’d expect the legislature to take this up again in the 2020 session.

If this is an important issue to you, I suggest you don’t wait until January of next year to give your input. Use the legislative off-season to contact legislators with your opinions and suggestions. This would include the bill’s sponsors, all of whom are listed on the bill’s dedicated page, and members of the House Education Committee and Senate Higher Education Committee. If one of these legislators is your elected representative, start there. If not, I suggest you contact one of the bill’s sponsors with your perspective.


Categories: Advocacy and policy

HB 444 would modify dual enrollment

March 12, 2019 3 comments

Dual enrollment is an important educational option for gifted students, especially those students whose home high schools don’t offer a wide variety of AP or advanced courses, or those who prefer the more serious environment of a college campus.

Students taking part in Georgia’s Dual Enrollment Program take classes at colleges or universities — public or private — at no cost, and earn both high-school credit and college credit for those classes.

HB 444, which passed the Georgia House of Representatives last week and is now in the Georgia Senate’s Higher Education Committee, would make two significant changes to dual enrollment:

  1. Dual enrollment at four-year colleges, whether part of the University System of Georgia or private institutions, would be open only to high-school juniors and seniors. This is a change from existing policy, under which freshmen and sophomores also are eligible. (Under the bill, sophomores could still take classes at the state’s technical colleges.)
  2. The Dual Enrollment Program would pay for a maximum of 30 semester hours (45 quarter hours) of college-level classes per high-school student. Once this cap of “covered” hours is reached, students could take additional dual enrollment classes by either A) paying out of pocket, or B) charging the additional dual enrollment hours against their future HOPE Grant or HOPE Scholarship.

To explain this second point, let’s say a high-school student has participated in dual enrollment since her junior year. By the time she reaches the spring semester of her senior year, she has taken 30 semester hours of classes at Georgia State University, all of which have been paid for by the Georgia Dual Enrollment Program. Now, she wants to take an additional 12 semester hours of classes at GSU. Under HB 444, she could either pay for those classes herself, or she could have them paid for by the Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC), in which case the 12 semester hours would be deducted from the maximum credit hours allowed to her under the HOPE program.

The caps on the HOPE Scholarship are a maximum of 127 semester hours or 190 quarter hours. This bill wouldn’t change those caps.

In our example above, the student taking an additional 12 semester hours at GSU could have those classes paid for by GSFC, applying them toward her HOPE allotment. If she goes on to receive a HOPE Scholarship, she would then have 115 semester hours remaining of HOPE Scholarship eligibility.

I contacted a legislative relations staff member with GSFC, who said it’s his interpretation that if a student exceeded the dual enrollment coverage limit, had additional dual enrollment classes paid for through GSFC, and didn’t end up receiving a HOPE Scholarship, they wouldn’t be required to reimburse the money to the state.

As with any legislation, changes to the bill are likely as it works its way through the legislative process.

My opinion? This is a good and necessary bill, crafted in response to an audit of the dual enrollment program that found explosive growth and spending, as well as some abuse of the program. Dual enrollment students taking one or two classes per semester at a college or university won’t bump into the 30-hour cap. Those who do reach the cap can still take additional classes without paying out of pocket by tapping into their future HOPE award.

The purpose of this bill is to keep the Dual Enrollment Program — and the HOPE program — solvent, and that’s crucial to Georgia’s gifted students.

Categories: Advocacy and policy

Online certificate in gifted education for parents as well as teachers

September 12, 2017 2 comments

When Arizona State University asked me to share information about their online graduate certificate program in gifted education, I was reluctant at first. I think of gifted ed certification as something for classroom teachers, and I think most of my readers are parents.

However, the university representative said this program of study would also be useful for parents who homeschool their gifted kids, or for parents who simply want to better understand their children’s learning needs and how to better advocate for their kids within a traditional school setting.

I’m all for parents becoming stronger advocates for their children — and, in time, for the general population of gifted children — so if you want to know more, download the PDF of the Graduate-Certificate-Gifted-Education-Program-Guide. To enroll, you must have a bachelor’s degree. The certification requires five classes and they say it can be completed in two years.

Arizona State U

New blog covers gifted education policy

September 14, 2016 Leave a comment

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the National Association for Gifted Children have joined forces with The High Flyer, a new blog about gifted education policy.

Policy papers are sometimes academic and dry, but I recommend you check this blog out anyway. Why? Because the more you know about what’s happening in gifted education in different states and school systems, the more effective you can be in bringing needed changes to your own school, district, or state, not only for your child, but for all gifted children.

08-05-the-high-flyer-blog-banner-fordham

 

Categories: Advocacy and policy

When academic awards season means hurt feelings for the gifted

May 12, 2016 9 comments

For the metro Atlanta area, May brings the end of the school year, and with that comes academic awards season. It can be a surprisingly difficult and disappointing time for gifted children.

Gifted kids will receive their Principal’s List awards for earning all A’s, but when it comes to those big awards — the special awards that are accompanied by a teacher’s speech about how wonderful the child is — gifted kids often are passed over in favor of students who have struggled through school.

I am all in favor of rewarding hard work in the face of adversity. I am often moved to tears when the teachers describe a child who, for example, started the school year not speaking English and now is reading independently. That child absolutely deserves praise for what they have achieved.

But how do I look into the saddened eyes of my child and explain that although she is at the top of her class academically, is helpful, respectful, responsible and well-behaved, she is never chosen for this standout award?

I try. I compare these awards to what on my sports teams were called the “Coach’s Award” or “Hustle Award,” an award the coach gave to a player who worked hard but who didn’t have the skills to be the best scorer, defender, or all-around athlete. The problem is, at least in my child’s school, there is only one special recognition award per class. So if the award goes to a kid who has struggled to get from the bottom to the middle, it will never go to a child who has consistently been at the top.

The “Crushing Tall Poppies” blog addressed this dilemma in a recent post, “Not the Underdog, Yet, the Underdog.” The author, Celi Trépanier, is a former teacher and a SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) facilitator. She argues that it’s human nature to give additional support and encouragement to children who are struggling, but points out that this can translate to neglect of well-adjusted, high-performing kids in school. She writes:

Cutting down the tall poppies does not level the playing field; it promotes an unfair and inequitable situation. What many seem to forget is gifted children are human and they are children—children who have feelings, who have flaws, and who can also have physical and learning disabilities. Gifted children, like all children, need positive feedback, encouragement, and they need to be nurtured and supported like every other child. When support, encouragement and positive feedback is denied to a gifted child based on the assumption he or she probably does not need anything more, they grow up feeling left out and shunned.

And so we go into awards season, my child hopeful, me filled with the dread of another disappointment, of trying to explain once again why her success isn’t enough to earn her the recognition she craves.