Ambitious high school students at Atlantic Shores Christian School (ASCS) in the Kempsville area have a new option to challenge themselves and enhance their college preparations. In addition to the popular Advanced Placement (AP) option available at most schools, ASCS now also offers dual enrollment classes. “It was kind of an instant success with our students and parents,” says Dr. Max Lyons, Director of Guidance. From just two classes (English and math) when dual enrollment began in 2009, the program has already expanded to include nine. About 55% of the student body now takes dual high school/college courses.
What is the difference between the more familiar AP high school class and a dual enrollment class? For AP, students take college-like courses in high school. The classes use college texts, and students are expected to perform at a college level. However, they are only eligible to earn college credits through the AP exam, which is offered once per year. Scores must meet a certain threshold to qualify for college credit. Student who miss the exam due to illness or who have an “off” day during the test receive no credit—no matter how stellar their work during the year. And a college may, at its discretion, not award credits for some or all AP exams, no matter the score.
Dual enrollment courses alleviate the pressures of a one-time test. All work contributes toward the final grade, and a passing grade confers credits from the affiliated college. Lyons says that since these are basic freshman-level courses, transferring the credits to most other colleges is not a problem.
ASCS partners with Regent University, John Brown University and Bryan College. Teachers undergo a thorough selection process. The participating colleges train them and certify them as adjunct professors, so they are eligible to teach dual enrollment courses. Each class uses the same textbooks, syllabus, and assignments as the comparable class on the college campus. “It is the same course taught at a different location,” says Lyon. New dual enrollment teachers can expect particular scrutiny from college department heads. The universities may monitor grading to verify teachers adhere to their standards.
Just like courses at the colleges’ main campuses, most dual enrollment classes finish in a semester. However, John Brown University requires their more difficult subjects, such as math and science, be taught over an entire year, so students have the opportunity to learn the material at a slower pace. Classes average about fifteen students, with the most popular subjects being English composition, English literature, American history, and science. Other course offerings include Spanish, statistics, calculus and public speaking.
For students’ grade point averages, ASCS counts dual enrollment classes like AP classes, with an A being worth a 5.0 and a B earning a 4.0—the equivalent of an A in a less intensive class. Students get two (or more) transcripts, one from ASCS and one from each dual enrollment college. ASCS displays dual enrollment grades on transcripts like those of other classes. However, students must also produce an official transcript from Regent, John Brown or Bryan for any credits they wish to transfer to another college.
Lyons sees multiple advantages with the addition of dual enrollment to the ASCS campus. For one thing, teachers frequently ratchet up instruction in their non-dual enrollment classes, making the entire curricula more rigorous. According to history teacher Leslie Ribeiro, of the Kempsville area in Chesapeake, “It has made me a far better teacher.” This is Ribeiro’s second year teaching dual enrollment U.S history. She especially enjoys how the curriculum encourages her students to think critically and write on a college level. “It gives kids the experience of learning and challenging their minds.” ASCS parent Robin Tull of the Greenbrier area, who served as chairman of the board when the school first implemented dual enrollment, agrees. “It just raised the academic level at Atlantic Shores.”
For students, taking the classes at their high school makes scheduling easier since they don’t have to drive to local colleges for night courses. And the price is right since dual enrollment courses cost less per credit hour. Tull cited the cost savings of an entire semester of college. His daughter Victoria will graduate this spring with 21 college credits already in hand.
Victoria, who has applied to four different colleges, says the classes have been a big challenge, but she sees another benefit beyond the credits themselves. “Lots of students have trouble when they get to college. I feel a lot more prepared in those areas where I took classes.”
ASCS alumnae Arielle Lyons (class of 2012) graduated with one AP class and four dual enrollment courses. “I wanted more of a challenge in my classes,” she explains. In addition to the extra challenge, she found her dual enrollment work more interesting and engaging. And she discovered another advantage. “When I graduated, I had fifteen credit hours that all transferred to Liberty. It gave me flexibility, so I could take a semester off.”
Arielle used the break to partake in a three-month mission trip to Columbia where she worked for a foundation that helps children. She credits that experience with helping her know herself better and develop spiritually. This semester she leaves for Liberty University, to major in either nursing or English. And she’ll start right on track with her peers who entered in the fall.