Colorado

Colorado dual enrollment growing

AURORA – The number of Colorado students who earned college credit while still in high school jumped 15.5 percent between 2010-2011 and last year, Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia announced Wednesday.

Students work on algebra problems in a college-level course Wednesday at Hinkley High School in Aurora.

Known as “concurrent enrollment,” the program helps students gain core college credits before they graduate from high school.

The strategy is considered a fundamental piece of the state’s plans to improve college completion, particularly by minority students. Colorado has the second-largest degree attainment gap in the country between white and Hispanic students. Garcia also said future employment needs will require 67 percent of Colorado adults to have some sort of post-secondary credential. Currently 47 percent of adults over age 25 have an associate’s degree or higher.

Last year alone, officials say dual enrollment in college courses saved Colorado families $10 million in what they would have otherwise spent on sending students to college.

“You can’t have a globally competitive workforce unless all students have the opportunity to graduate from high school and move successfully into college,” Garcia said. “More students need to get a post-secondary credential, but that’s becoming increasingly unaffordable. Any program that allows students to be successful and doesn’t cost that student and family a lot of money can really work.”

A college degree is “not something that should be available to only some of our students,” he added.

Dual enrollment stats in Colorado

About 24,000 – or 19 percent – of Colorado’s high school students participate in dual enrollment programs. And of those, 85 percent enrolled in college after high school graduation. Additionally, those students also had higher first-year grade point averages (2.66) compared to students who had not taken college courses in high school (1.89). And, 78 percent of those who took college courses in 2009-2010 and went on to college remained enrolled after their first year, compared to 58 percent of students who did not take college courses in high school.

Garcia and Aurora Public Schools officials released the state’s annual concurrent enrollment report during an event at Hinkley High School, which has the third-highest number of students participating in college classes of any high school in the state.

Aurora is a state leader in using dual enrollment as a way to prepare students – especially minority students from low-income families without past college experience – for college attendance and completion.

Of students who took courses through 18 participating colleges while in high school – either at school or at a college campus – more than 75 percent passed all their courses while 10 percent failed them, the report found. The remainder earned partial credit. Some 64 percent of the state’s high schools, or 304, offer dual enrollment programs.

“We need to be blurring the lines between K-12 and higher education,” Garcia said. “This makes it easier for students to make that transition successfully.”

The two-year institutions with the largest dual enrollment programs were the Community College of Aurora, with 2,722 students, and Arapahoe Community College, with 2,365 students. The four-year institutions with the largest dual enrollment programs last year were the University of Colorado Denver, serving 3,775 students, and Colorado State University Pueblo, serving a little more than 1,000 students.

Enrollment growth reported across racial lines

Especially exciting to educators was the fact that students of color are participating in concurrent programs at a greater rate than ever before.

The number of Native-American students, for instance, nearly doubled from 53 to 105 between 2010-2011 and the following year. The number of Hispanic students rose 46.2 percent from 1,877 to 2,744

“These students were overlooked as potential college students,” Garcia said. “These are the students who are the future of not just our state, but our country.”

However, white students continue to make up the largest segment, 54 percent, of students enrolled in dual enrollment programs, with enrollment of 7,504. That figure is a dramatic 65.5 percent increase over the previous year.

In addition to concurrent enrollment, Aurora also has the state’s highest participation in the two-year-old ASCENT (Accelerating Students through Concurrent ENrollmenT) program, which allows a student who has 12 college credits at the time of high school graduation to stay in the program for a fifth year and have those college costs fully covered by the state. Statewide enrollment in ASCENT grew 50 percent last year to 129 students. (The legislative Joint  Budget Committee wants to put a cap on funding for ASCENT).

Alton Scales, president of the Community College of Aurora, called education “truly transformative.”

ASCENT student Laura Serrano

“We are creating an army of educated people – individuals who will stand in lockstep… not only to transform communities and families, but to redefine who we are nationally as a people.”

Laura Serrano, 19, who is enrolled in the ASCENT program, said it would have taken her years to complete a college degree since her family does not quality for in-state tuition or financial assistance. Now, she is on track to become the first in her family to earn a college degree. She graduated from Hinkley last year in the top 10 percent of her class. This spring she will earn an associate’s of arts degree from the Community College of Aurora. She plans to study communications in the fall at Fort Hays State University in Kansas.

“ASCENT not only provided me with school and classes, I never had to worry about paying for books,” Serrano said. “We’ve also had mentors guide us all through the way.”

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede