Monday, February 18, 2002

Professors go back to high school


College-level courses made for seniors

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        More than 200 Cincinnati Public Schools students are taking college courses in high school — by having professors come to them rather than the other way around.

        For years, high school students have been allowed to take courses on college campuses or advanced placement (AP) courses in high school for college credit.

        This is different.

        Four Cincinnati Public high schools — Aiken, Walnut Hills, Western Hills and the School for Creative and Performing Arts — are partnering with a handful of Ohio universities to bring college courses to their schools. Professors teach the classes full- or part-time.

        John Bryan, dean of the University of Cincinnati's University College, said the program is rare. Students say they appreciate an early taste of college and their teachers say the courses help ward off “senior-year slump.”

        “With college professors coming in, it gives me a better sense of what college will be like,” said Ray Bonds, an 18-year-old senior who takes English composition at Western Hills High School in Price Hill.

        The college classes include:

        • Algebra and economicsat Western Hills.
        • Engineering at Walnut Hills.
        • Sign language at SCPA.

        At Aiken, the program has been suspended this year but is expected to resume next fall.

        Mr. Bonds and 125 others are taking college courses for credit through the University of Cincinnati. They pay $10 per credit hour, far below the $134 cost charged college students. Western Hills, UC, the district and the Cincinnati Business Committee pick up the balance.

        On a recent day, Mr. Bonds and his English composition class dissected an essaywith UC professor Dr. Ann Hinkle, who visits once a week, and their English teacher, Elizabeth Thole. While the work is harder, Mr. Bonds is happy to be earning three university credits.

        “Basically this told me college is the right thing,” Mr. Bonds said.

        Colleges say the program is a great way to steer kids to their schools and business leaders say it will help students succeed in college and, ultimately, the work place.
       

High school gets serious
               Challenging high school students is the buzz in education and business circles. Especially senior year.

        A national commission formed in 2000 studied the “lost opportunity” of senior year, reporting that “senioritis,” or an academic slump, sets in once some students have been accepted to college. They ignore their studies.

        Cincinnati educators say college classes are one solution.

        “It's part of a movement to create more of a value for your high school diploma,” said David Burns, CPS' high school restructuring manager.

        Students at SCPA can receive high school and college credit for the Cincinnati State Technical and Community College sign language course offered there.

        The course uses both the SCPA grading scale and Cincinnati State's grading scale, which is tougher than high school requirements, said Ruby Downie, the college instructor who teaches the course.

        “It was a real struggle for some students (to understand the grading system),” she said.

        Critics say CPS' college courses are a way to rope students into attending the school that offers the credit, such as Ohio State's engineering class at Walnut Hills.

        They say students are better off taking AP courses, which are rigorous college-level high school classes. Students receive college credit by scoring well at the end of AP courses on a national exam that is accepted at hundreds of colleges and universities.

        Dr. Hinkle said CPS' program — where the actual university courses are brought to high schools — offers the unique experience of interacting with a college professor. She said she fields numerous questions about campus life, in addition to discussions about course material.

        “This is another way to make the senior year more meaningful and to make a seamless transition from secondary school to post-secondary school,” said Tom Shaver, Western Hills principal.

       



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