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Indiana struggling with change for dual-credit teachers

November 1, 2015

Educators around Indiana are struggling over how to deal with an impending change in academic requirements for those who teach high school classes for which students can receive college credit.

Officials say more than 65,000 Indiana students took dual-credit courses last school year. But state education officials don't know how many of Indiana's 2,900 dual-credit teachers might no longer qualify because of the new requirement for them to have 18 credit hours from master's degree-level courses in the subject by fall 2017.

That requirement comes from the private accreditation group for Indiana colleges, which says it is meant to ensure those classes are taught by someone with college-level expertise.

Todd Bess, executive director of Indiana Association of School Principals, said he's heard from some school leaders that up to 90 percent of their teachers wouldn't meet the standard.

"Their concerns are this is going to decimate their dual-credit offerings and the real impact is that students won't be earning dual credit for their college opportunities," Bess told WFYI-FM.

The Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission, a private organization that conducts college accreditation in Indiana and 18 others states, maintains it is implementing what has been a longstanding expectation.

"An expert faculty member is a critical element in ensuring that dual enrollment students have a college experience that is as rigorous as the college experience they would have had by taking the same class on campus from a college faculty member," commission spokesman John Hausaman said.

Homestead High School near Fort Wayne works with several colleges to offer dozens of dual-credit courses, including business law and ethics, computer programming, web design and business management, Principal Park Ginder said.

He said 23 of the school's teachers would maintain eligibility as dual-credit instructors under the new rules, but 32 others are in question. Many of those teachers have a master's degree in a different specialty, such as school administration, from the content area of their dual-credit courses, Ginder told the Journal Gazette.

"Our university partners said these people are capable ... and suddenly they are not," he said. "They are outstanding teachers. To change the expectation on the fly is inappropriate."

An advisory council led by state higher education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz is discussing possible options and is scheduled to meet Nov. 23.

Ritz said she was talking with education leaders in other states about addressing the issue, with one suggestion being to let current dual-credit teachers continue and have the tougher requirements apply for new teachers.

"And where's the evidence showing that having these 18 hours means they are better prepared?" Ritz said. "A lot of high school teachers are feeling like, 'What do you mean? I'm a professional.'"

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