Students in the Warren County School District now have another option for earning college credit while still in high school.
The district's board of directors approved a dual enrollment agreement with Pitt-Bradford by a vote of 7-2 after a lengthy discussion.
The district also renewed agreements with St. Bonaventure and Clarion University on Monday.
Dr. Steve Hardin, vice president of academic affairs at Pitt-Bradford, said the institution is "very happy to work with the Warren County School District...to increase opportunities for students in our region."
Pitt-Bradford will offer its College in the High School program, in which classroom teachers provide the course instruction in the high school setting under the guidance of a Pitt-Bradford faculty liaison. Hardin said the program as 250 students involved. Each three-credit class costs $125.
He said the university did a survey with past program participants and 95 percent of respondents reported that the credits they earned in the program transferred to the other institutions where they enrolled.
Superintendent Brandon Hufnagel said there is some concern about the chemistry course being offered as it is not a 100-level (freshman) class.
"It's not a remedial class," Hardin said. "It's an introductory class."
Board member John Grant asked if there were any incentives for students to participate in the program. "They have Pitt credits, that's an advantage," Hardin said. Bob Dilks, director of transfer and non-traditional student recruitment, said the $45 application fee is waived for participants in the program and also noted that a student's admission criteria can be enhanced with success in the program, even if other areas of their application are lacking.
Grant asked if students who complete these classes are accepted into the university.
Hardin said students in the program are only accepted for those classes and are not considered admitted to the institution at-large. He said that decision is based on their general performance in high school.
Dr. Lauren Yaich, who directs the program, explained that the courses offered are taught by school district teachers who participate in an orientation with a faculty liaison who teaches the same course on Pitt-Bradford's campus. They discuss the content and the level of rigor and the liaison is then available for consultation throughout the school year. At the conclusion of the course, the student takes the Pitt final exam, provided by the liaison.
"With our other dual enrollment programs, we have the rigor of the actual college professor," board president Arthur Stewart said. "Here, are you simply winding up the teacher with that one orientation (with) no physical interaction with the classroom?"
Yaich said that it depends on the liaison, indicating that some will go meet with teachers while "not all liaisons are necessarily able to travel." She said that some will provide quizzes and sample tests upon request. "We really don't want the students to get to that final exam and they get slapped in the face."
"It doesn't seem to integrate anything unique about Pitt-Bradford," Stewart said.
"The quality of the course depends on the professor," Yaich said.
Board Vice President Donna Zariczny asked if the mentor "is not up to standard" whether changes can be made mid-term "to get the support we need here."
Yaich said that an agreement could be reached that would provide an on-site mentor a certain number of times each year. "There is a back and forth exchange...the teachers get out of it as much as they request."
"The bottom line is that it always boils down to the teacher whether a course is successful," Grant said. "My question and concern...it's effectively adding to our declining enrollment program, taking students who would be in our courses and sending them to other institutions.
"I supported the St. Bonaventure program when it came on and I continue to support it because it's a unique outlet to have," he added. "How many programs do we have to have? What we haven't heard from administration (is) what resources is that drawing away from us? What benefit is that to students? Is it worth it?"
Director of Secondary Education Amanda Hetrick re-focused the question to what the district gains from these agreements, citing increased professional development and increased student interactions throughout the region.
While recognizing that the "communication piece is the tough part of doing these enrollment agreements," Hetrick said the responsibility placed on building-level administration in the Pitt program is similar to the oversight needed for an Advanced Placement (AP) course.
"We ask them to be in the classroom...be a part of everything that happens for every student in every classroom," she said, adding that it is the responsibility of the building administrator to ensure an AP course is taught as it should be and noted that the Pitt program will entail a "similar type of responsibility."
Hufnagel said that the key to the program is in the selection of the teacher who is "willing to put extra time in. This program is all about the teacher and that teacher's willingness to step up" and provide college-level rigor. Citing that the Pitt courses could be taught in the same classroom as AP courses, increasing the likelihood of successfully transferring credits, "that's the part that makes me excited about this."
The pilot program will occur at Sheffield Area Middle Senior High School. One reason cited during last month's committee meetings was minimal participation Sheffield students in the St. Bonaventure program
Stewart asked whether what is currently being offered in Sheffield has been reviewed. "What's wrong with what we have? How many more opportunities do we have to have...to meet opportunities?"
Board member Tom Knapp indicated that he agreed with Stewart but, if siphoning students from district programming is the reason for a no vote, "we also need to consider (the) Bonaventure (agreement) for the same reason."
"This wasn't really about Sheffield," Hetrick said. "We wanted a chance to work with Pitt-Bradford...it was convenient, it was close by."
"It's all about the teacher and we have two teachers who are willing to step up to the plate at Sheffield and pilot it and see how it works," Hufnagel said.