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Changes to college in the classroom proposed

Park Rapids Area High School students, from left, Jada Current, Bobby Bruce and Marcus McKeever work together on a College English writing assignment. (Kevin Cederstrom / Enterprise)

New qualifications proposed by the Higher Learning Commission could make it more difficult for high school teachers to teach college courses, and that has Park Rapids administrators concerned.   As part of the qualification changes the state is pushing to require all high school teachers teaching college courses to hold a master’s degree. That would have a negative effect on what Park Rapids and other area schools, administrators say.  Three of the six Park Rapids educators who currently teach college courses do not have master’s degrees.  

Without all the opportunities to take college credits currently offered at the high school, principal Jeff Johnson says students at the high end of the class would likely pursue Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) on a college campus and away from the high school.  “They’re not going to be able to be involved in their high school as much as they could if it’s in the same town,” Johnson said. “We pride ourselves in not having a lot of PSEO students because we have a lot to offer with all the college classes.”  Johnson addressed the issue at Monday’s school board meeting.  “That changes your whole atmosphere of your school when you take the top end students out,” Johnson said.  School board member Gary Gauldin feels strongly about the issue and how important it is to offer college courses in high school. Gauldin doesn’t agree with the proposed changes and was one of many to testify on the matter in St. Paul.  

“My personal position is just leave things alone. It isn’t broke so quit tinkering with it,” he said.  Most of the testimony in St. Paul painted a similar picture to Park Rapids, according to Gauldin, in many cases high schools stand to lose significant college in school course offerings with the proposed changes.   “Park Rapids would stand to lose over half of our courses,” Gauldin said. “My testimony simply pointed out that when we started with UMN-Crookston in the mid 90’s the agreement was financially a wash. We provided the facility, instructor and text in exchange for college credits.”  Gauldin explained in the 2014-15 school year Park Rapids students earned over $250,000 in credits, which with state reimbursement was a net cost of less than $15,000 to the district.   Gauldin said at the hearing, “Education has seen a lot of experiments that didn’t work. This college in school/concurrent enrollment works. Leave it alone.”  Shane Graham sees each year the value and opportunity high school students taking college courses have through concurrent enrollment.   Graham has a master’s degree in Science from Bemidji State University and has been teaching college physics at Park Rapids Area High School for seven years.  For students to have the ability to take college courses in high school and enter their first year of college, potentially, as a sophomore could save families a full year of college tuition.  “That’s an amazing opportunity for them,” Graham said.  

Currently, the school district offers concurrent enrollment courses for college credits in Intro to MS Office, College Anatomy & Physiology, College Algebra, College Social, Physics and College English.  Those options would be limited if teachers are required to have a master’s degree.  Under the new proposed guidelines 44  students last year would not have been able to obtain college credits, while 83 would not have been affected. Last year, students earned about $250,000 worth of college credits at Park Rapids Area High School, according to Johnson.  Park Rapids currently partners with University of Minnesota Crookston, Northland Community Technical College in Thief River Falls and Bemidji State University.  For classes through UMC and Northland CTC students must have a minimum of a B average (3.0) to enroll in a course and earn at least a C in the college in order to get college credit.  For classes at BSU, a student must be in the top half of the senior class or top third of the junior class. They also need to have completed Algebra II.

Concurrent enrollment  Courses are funded through an agreement between a postsecondary institution and a participating school district.  High school teachers must be approved by the partnering college/university and meet the institution’s academic requirements.   

“They’re not going to be able to be involved in their high school as much as they could if it’s in the same town,” Johnson said. “We pride ourselves in not having a lot of PSEO students because we have a lot to offer with all the college classes.”  Johnson addressed the issue at Monday’s school board meeting.  “That changes your whole atmosphere of your school when you take the top end students out,” Johnson said.  School board member Gary Gauldin feels strongly about the issue and how important it is to offer college courses in high school. Gauldin doesn’t agree with the proposed changes and was one of many to testify on the matter in St. Paul.  

“My personal position is just leave things alone. It isn’t broke so quit tinkering with it,” he said.  “Park Rapids would stand to lose over half of our courses,” Gauldin said. “My testimony simply pointed out that when we started with UofM-Crookston in the mid 90s the agreement was financially a wash. We provided the facility, instructor and text in exchange for college credits.”  Gauldin explained in the 2014-15 school year Park Rapids students earned over $250,000 in credits, which with state reimbursement was a net cost of less than $15,000 to the district.   

Gauldin said at the hearing, “Education has seen a lot of experiments that didn’t work. This college in school/concurrent enrollment works. Leave it alone.”  Shane Graham has a master’s degree in Science from Bemidji State University and has been teaching college physics at Park Rapids Area High School for seven years.  Graham sees each year the value and opportunity high school students taking college courses have through concurrent enrollment. For students to have the ability to take college courses in high school and enter their first year of college, potentially, as a sophomore could save families a full year of college tuition.  “That’s an amazing opportunity for them,” Graham said.  Currently, the school district offers concurrent enrollment courses for college credits in Intro to MS Office, College Anatomy & Physiology, College Algebra, College Social, Physics and College English.  Those options would be limited if teachers are required to have a master’s degree.  

Under the new proposed guidelines 44  students last year would not have been able to obtain college credits, while 83 would not have been affected. Last year, students earned about $250,000 worth of college credits at Park Rapids Area High School, according to Johnson.  Park Rapids currently partners with University of Minnesota Crookston, Northland Community Technical College in Thief River Falls and Bemidji State University.  For classes through UMC and Northland CTC students must have a minimum of a B average (3.0) to enroll in a course and earn at least a C in the college in order to get college credit.  For classes at BSU, a student must be in the top half of the senior class or top third of the junior class. They also need to have completed Algebra II.  Courses are funded through an agreement between a postsecondary institution and a participating school district.  High school teachers must be approved by the partnering college/university and meet the institution’s academic requirements.   

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