Dual degrees possible by 2016
In 2016, a potential 103 Dorchester District Two high school seniors will graduate not only with a high school diploma, but some also could have earned an Associate's Degree.
The 2016 Early College Cohort begins this summer in DD2. Partnering with Trident Technical College, students will complete their high school diplomas concurrently while completing general education credits toward a two-year college degree.
The first step in this program was informational nights. The program was open to all current ninth graders. According to Dr. Kenneth Wilson, director of high schools, he expected about 75 students and parents overall to come and was overwhelmed to see a packed room.
“Hundreds of people went!”
Ultimately, “we had 171 apply for 90 slots,” said Wilson, Monday, in a presentation to the DD2 Board of Trustees.
The process included online applications from students; an initial screening that took into consideration grades, attendance, discipline, standardized tests and demographics. Students also have to take three Trident College Placement Tests over the next three years. The first (COMPASS) is a reading comprehension test, which has already been administered.
Next, applicants had to submit a minimum of three evaluations from teachers, counselors and administrators. Then there were student and parent interviews.
Each of the three high schools chose its cohort – via recommendations from the principal, assistant principals, counselors and teachers – and these choices went to the district level where 103 were ultimately selected.
Wilson noted that the district decided to chose 103 in anticipation of attrition because a student may change their mind or leave the district, etc.
The successful students attended an orientation.
Trident teachers will teach the students and the college will collaborate with DD2 to provide curricular offerings and course sequences leading toward the college credential. Students and parents will have an opportunity to design individual pathways of study based on the students' career interest.
By the end of their sophomore year (10th grade), students will have completed 18 credit hours of college. An Associate's usually carries about 60 to 64 credit hours.
The students enrolled will face a challenging three years. They will be expected to keep up with a rigorous, adult, collegiate environment and must be committed to academic excellence, explained Wilson.
They will be responsible for their own learning and must maintain a B grade or better which is the equivalent to a 3.0 grade point. Students demonstrating difficulty with the demands will be identified for early intervention and placed on a plan for education support, said Wilson.
These 103 students will have little summer vacation. They begin school again on July 9 taking two classes. Their school day will run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. They will have a morning two-and-a-half-hour class, a 45-minute study/support session, then a 45-minute break for lunch (they must bring their own) then another class until 2:30 p.m. They must be off campus by 3 p.m. The summer session ends August 7 and, by then, they will have earned six college credit hours.
Students will attend these classes and their own high school.
For the summer of 2013, classes include Psychology, Intro to Computers and Art/Music Appreciation. Fall, 2013 courses are English 101, Intro to Computers, Art/Music Appreciation and Economics. Spring 2014 courses are English 102 and Government.
Students will work with high school counselors to adjust their normal high school class choices and schedule to accommodate the advanced learning.
“We anticipate,” said Wilson, “that after the first summer, some students will choose to take on more than the two courses for a total of eight credit hours. Perhaps they will take a language, which could carry four credit hours. So some students could graduate from high school with both a high school diploma and an Associate's Degree.”
Others, he said, who might have earned 54 credit hours by the end of high school, could finish their degree requirement over the summer after graduation or during the first fall semester.
Further, these credit hours may also be applicable toward a four-year degree.
In addition to the reading comprehension COMPASS placement test, students will take a COMPASS writing test over the summer and a math COMPASS test in the fall.
Of the district's 103 students, 60.2 percent (62) are female, 39.8 percent (41) are male; 36.9 percent (38) receive subsidized lunch; 64.1 percent (66) are Caucasian with 35.9 percent (37) minority.
“Interestingly, these demographics mirror Trident Tech's demographic,” said Wilson, “with a 60/40 split.”
Of the 103, 38 are Ashley Ridge High Schoolers, 38 – Fort Dorchester High School and 27 – Summerville High School.
Tuition is $153 per credit hour, which is a total of $918 per semester if a student takes two courses at three credit hours per course. However, thanks to the South Carolina state lottery, the South Carolina Educational Foundation and DD2, this program will cost students nothing. Trident Technical College covers the cost for all students who are eligible for subsidized lunch programs which is 36 out of the total cohort.