More high schoolers getting jump start on college

KAPAA — Preparing high school students for the rigors of college isn’t enough for Kapaa High School principal Daniel Hamada. He wants his students to experience a college classroom setting before they graduate.

“They’re not waiting for graduation to see what college is like, they get firsthand experience about what the expectations are in a college course with a fully certified college instructor,” Hamada said.

Kapaa High School saw one of the highest increases in student enrollment in dual-credit courses in the state, from 8 percent to 23 percent.

The College and Career Readiness Indicators Report (CCRI) for the Class of 2016, released last week by Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education, showed Hawaii public school graduates are making steady improvements on a year-to-year basis in terms of college and career readiness and earning college credits before graduation.

By earning college credit in high school, remediation rates for students have fallen significantly. At Kapaa High, dual-credit courses — classes that offer high school and college credit — are offered in hopes that students can take advantage of getting their prerequisite classes out of the way before they set foot on a college campus.

“We only have dual-credit courses that are over the 100-level so they can transfer in college as a prerequisite. We don’t offer anything lower than that. We only offer classes above the 100-level because we the credits to transfer to any school whether it’s on island or on the West Coast or in California,” Hamada said. “Of all the students taking the dual-credit courses, about 96 percent of them are passing.”

In the Class of 2016, the number of dual-credit participants increased from 10 percent for the Class of 2015 to 14 percent for the Class of 2016. Last year’s high school graduating class also had 515 more students graduating with college credits than in 2015.

The importance of students having credits under their belt as they graduate high school is valuable because not only are they able to avoid remediation by taking lower-level courses in college, they’re also able to receive valuable experience in a college classroom setting.

At Kapaa High, a DOE teacher and an instructor from Kauai Community College team up to teach the students.

Julianna Taylor is a senior at Kapaa High School, currently taking two dual-credit courses in English 101 and Business 120. These classes have given her perspective on what college is like and what is expected of her outside of high school.

“I’ve learned a lot in both classes. I’ve gotten a lot more experience and knowledge about these courses more so than I would have in my high school classes,” Taylor said. “I know what a college professor would be looking for and how high the standards of college are compared to high school classes.”

Vanessa Hernandez, a fellow senior at Kapaa High, takes dual-credit courses to challenge herself and surround herself with other ambitious students.

“I like them because I don’t have to conform to the classes like I usually do in high school,” Hernandez said. “I’m with students in these classes who want a higher education and to better themselves.”

Hernandez took Math 205 last semester and is taking English 100 in the spring.

Hamada said that over the past two years, the school has gone from offering two dual-credit courses to now offering over 20, from Math 101, Psychology 101, English 101 and even Art 101, for which over 90 kids signed up last year.

“Having a college teacher work with you every day of the week helps you in your chances of succeeding and meeting the expectations of college more,” Hamada said. “The students get high school and college credit at the same time and get the same level of rigor from AP classes.”

One advantage Hamada pointed out in taking dual- credit courses over Advanced Placement courses is that in AP classes, a student only gets one chance to earn college credit by taking an AP exam. But in dual-credit courses, a student knows that their grade and ability to earn college credit is not predicated on passing one test.

Stephen Schatz, newly appointed executive director of Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education, said that the increase in student participation in dual-credit courses is exciting, and he hopes that more students take advantage of these opportunities moving forward.

“A great aspect of this improvement is that it’s measured in a variety of different ways,” Schatz said. “There’s more kids taking AP, more kids are doing dual-credit, like at Kapaa High School, and more kids are taking less remediation courses when they’re in college.”

Schatz said Kapaa High is doing a good job at laying down the framework early on regarding a student’s success beyond graduation.

“They worked with KCC and made sure the kids had their sights high when they were thinking about their future,” Schatz said. “Sometimes all it takes is a kid trying to do something that they didn’t think that they’d be able to do.”

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