Why Quality & Rigor Matter In Dual Enrollment

Parchment Staff  •  Dec 12, 2023  •  Podcast
Episode 3 - Why Quality and Rigor Matter in Dual Enrollment

Amy Williams, Executive Director at the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP), joins us to discuss the importance of quality and rigor in Dual Enrollment. We discuss the importance of standards in advancing equity and access, as well as how school districts can scale up their Dual Enrollment programs.



Matt Sterenberg

So tell us a little bit about the work that NACEP is doing. What are your primary objectives? Why do you exist? What’s your mission? And why is the work that you’re doing pretty critical to the world of, of dual enrollment.


Amy Williams

I love the word critical and I would say that really our organization plays a critical role in uniting, supporting, elevating the voice of education professionals working in what I would distinctly say is the most unique, nuanced, challenging field of education, this dual and concurrent enrollment space. We are the first, NACEP is the first and only national organization that exists to support programs, practitioners, and policy to advance quality dual and concurrent enrollment. So we support programs in a couple of different ways and particularly program quality by providing the only national framework of rigorous national quality standards. And then further, we affirm excellence in the application and use of those standards through program accreditation. We also do a lot of work to support practitioners. It’s deep at the heart of the formation of our organization and really serve as kind of the singular source for national best practice, peer-to-peer connections, research and advocacy. And then third bucket where we do our work is certainly in the policy space. And we have a very specific policy context we come to this work from. So NACEP feels that the voice of practitioners is really the most relevant and informed voice on concurrent and dual enrollment. And so they need to be at the table for federal and state policy conversations as the folks that are often tasked to implement those policies to kind of ground truth and make sure that what is developed makes sense, moves objectives forward in a way that is thoughtful and manageable for the field. So we do a lot of work in those three buckets kind of supporting the field broadly and specifically. We do a lot in the professional development space because this is such a unique space of education. We take all comers, both the secondary and post-secondary side, and on the post-secondary side we very frequently engage with faculty administrators, deans, as well as those coordinator level folks that are working with students and families day in day out. We also work on the high school side, same kind of group with the administrators as well as the high school instructors doing this work, as well as the building and district supervisors and superintendents that are really advancing these programs as a key component of secondary education. We also do a lot of work in the space of state agencies, whether that’s secondary or post-secondary state agencies, system office folks, as well as an important kind of connection between the field and those that most often kind of pull together the context that supports the field. We do a lot of PD through our annual national conference. We do topical and regional events. We publish resources and maintain a curated database of high quality resources, including everything from the coolest latest white paper all the way to deep dense peer reviewed research, toolkits from others in the field as well as ourselves. We do a lot in the virtual space like everybody now. We have weekly topical webinars that run a gamut of things that are either evergreen topics that people deal with in the field, or kind of those hot trending topics that we’re seeing emerge that are coming up through things like our list serves or individual member outreach. And I think most importantly, the role that we serve.


And really how I got engaged with NASEP as an executive director is really the community that we create. These programs are very, you know, square peg kind of round hole, right? So they’re not high school, they’re not college, but they are both high school and college at the same time. So that can be pretty isolating for the staff that are working on secondary or post-secondary side. So we try to connect those thousands of education professionals doing this really critical work to create a national community that’s really focused on the value of these programs, taking on common challenges, shaping and driving the direction of the field through the emerging and new research that we’re learning about the value of these programs. And then as I always kind of already touched on, we are the nation’s only program accreditor. So we do a lot of independent third party neutral review of evidence submitted showing alignment and meeting or exceeding our national quality standards.


Matt Sterenberg

Yeah, so you’re a resource for people. You’re lobbying, advocating, and then obviously you have the accreditation piece, which is really critical to ensuring that these programs have rigor, right? And that when I get college credit, it actually can translate, right? Because the worst thing that could happen is if a student has college credit, but it’s not…I can’t stack that knowledge, right? If I, on paper have, you should know this, and then I go to take the next course and I don’t actually know it, that’s not gonna end up serving anybody other than, you know, it helps me schedule my classes maybe a little bit easier, I have more flexibility. So tell me about how important rigor is and accreditation and why it’s such an impactful piece to the future of concurrent enrollment.


Amy Williams

Yeah, I would actually even start a little further back with quality just in general, right? Like accreditation is just kind of that outside verification that says what you’re doing is the best way to ensure quality courses that give students that rigor, that same course experience they’d get on campus, but with the convenience of their high school. So why is a program quality critical? I mean, you kind of hit on some of the high points. We don’t want to give students a false bill of goods, right? Like if you take a class, you want to know that the integrity was there and that the elements you learned are useful and productive and stackable on further knowledge later in your academic career. And I’d say, why is program quality critical? When doesn’t quality matter? Like anything you are selecting and probably purchasing, right? Quality is kind of a key consideration. So particularly things that you hope will be reliably useful for the long haul, which I think that’s what higher ed is really. It’s that investment in the near term that will hopefully yield those long term results. And so, you know, one of the things that we’re often tasked with in this field is particularly because of the basics and background of this field is it’s a very grassrootsy field. Like these programs grew up, they go all the way back to the 50s, but they grew up generally isolated from one another deep in the heart of our organization is the fact that those folks tended to find themselves on the perimeter of other education conferences and started talking to one another. That’s actually how our organization was founded. And what happens when you get educators in a room together that are doing work that they’re passionate about? They’re going to default to talking shop, right? So they started talking about some of these particular areas that are important to ensure quality, rigor, alignment, parity, all of those key elements. So you know, that happens because there is a lack of guidance or systems to ensure that quality, right? Colleges know how to do it on their side, high schools know how to do it on their side, but what is that middle in between both and space? So our organization was really built to provide structure and best practice to what’s become this now very popular and powerful grassroot disrupter of status quo in American education. And deep in that heart of that,


Amy Williams

is kind of this element that there was no formal guidance for that unique individual space that’s kind of right both and right between them. So you know NACEP accreditation holds a really important role in not just let’s say guiding people and how to build quality programs, how to ensure quality programs manage and develop them.


But by and large, state policy doesn’t have a lot to say, or particularly if we roll back the clock 10 to 15 years when these programs are really starting to get traction, doesn’t have a lot of guidance on what thou shalt and shalt not do. Or when it does, it is, and this is not necessarily a bone to pick with policy, gray area is great. Broad guidelines with strong guardrails can be really helpful.


But that’s not helpful for the people boots on the ground that are trying to determine, am I doing this right? Am I moving this forward in a way that’s gonna get us in trouble or is gonna get us applauded? So we play and our accreditation as well as our national quality standards play an important role in filling this hole in state policy as specifically addressing what you should be doing with students if you are offering these programs as well as another kind of oversight area is regional accreditors for institutions of higher education.


By and large, many of them are pretty quiet on what the requirements of these programs are and defer to the college, which is very helpful if you’re the college, except when you’re at that boots on the ground level and you’re trying to figure out, okay, I get that I have some leeway here, but what is the best approach? How do I do this to ensure that rigor? How do I work with faculty and move things forward and make the high school partners feel like they’re a valued partner in this work and that we’re really connecting to disparate education systems instead of kind of focusing on transactional elements. So that’s kind of the void that we fill and it’s a pretty important role. Even as we see more state policy advance in this space, a lot of states are using our national quality standards as their guidelines for how these programs should run. And we think that’s really important because again, this is, you know, grassroot programs that kind of developed. So we’re trying to build that national alignment, common language, common understanding and expectations, because those expectations end up manifesting and resulting in those quality elements.


Matt Sterenberg

I think the interesting thing too is like at first when I heard about your organization, I was like, I guess they got accreditation for everything. And then you’re like, well, all colleges are accredited. This is college credit. Why wouldn’t we have accreditation body for it? So the other interesting thing about standards and best practices and accreditation is that I think it allows you to get a better feedback loop.


And if you’re doing the right things, so if everybody’s doing their own thing, and then you look at the outcomes data and you go, Oh, look at where dual enrollment leads to this or doesn’t lead to this. Well, if everybody’s running their own plays, how would you know what’s working and what isn’t? So I think that is a very valuable exercise to be able to say here, the organizations and systems and all the rest. And then to be able to see what the outcomes are for that group, to be able to then say, how do we need to evolve our best practices, right? Because it’s not gonna be something that just stops, right? You’re constantly learning about what’s working, what’s not, and where you wanna identify potential opportunities and things like that.


Amy Williams

Yeah, well, and the field changes as well. And that’s an important thing that I’m, so I just recently had a piece in AASA, the superintendents magazine. And one of the things I tried to elevate there is that we’re seeing as the, you know, the only national organization that kind of keeps their eye on the collective field in the United States, we’re seeing a paradigm shift. It’s not happening everywhere all at the same time, but it is happening in pockets and within, you know, state context or system context.


So we’re seeing this move from really a program that has a deep history as more of a program of privilege, right? Very over accessed by white female students that come from a college educated family. But as research evolves, which by the way, great point on the research, right? The more heterogeneity, the tougher it is to get to a population size worth studying, right? So you need to look for those common aligned elements.


But when we’re kind of looking at the research, we’re seeing a lot of groups that are outside the original vision for these programs, like these were initially, you know, built for gifted and talented type students or seniors with a lot of potential, trying to fill that senior year with something that has value and keeps them engaged in education instead of, you know, slacking off.


So these programs have that deep in their history and we do still see that propagate forward. But by and large, as research has started evolving and as colleges get more interested in engaging more diverse groups of students and serving those students to and through, we’re starting to see this paradigm shift. And I think the data is a little further behind. And we could have an entire podcast on the challenges, strengths and weaknesses of national dual enrollment data.


But we are seeing in state reporting and institutional-based reporting, some of these equity gaps through intentional work starting to close. And so that’s really important. Like CCRC came out with an outstanding paper where, and I love the model that they used, where they basically looked at some of this data that they felt was strong in quality and looked for programs that didn’t have significant gaps. Like very much, a lot of times we’re talking about those deficit-based elements when we’re looking at these, oh, look at these horrible equity gaps.


They went looking for places that already had no equity gaps and then started talking to the programs to kind of discover what was the secret sauce that got them there and what was the mindset and mentality applied. And so, you know, that resulted in parts and pieces and developed the dual enrollment playbook, which I think is a great kind of deep dive into what these programs have taught us about, you know, building programs that matter that address things like equity gaps, which fundamentally serves a whole or brings a whole new population of students that higher ed was currently not talking to into play and they’re college capable students. They’ve already got a couple credits under their belt. What more could you want, right?


Matt Sterenberg

Well, I’m glad you brought up the equity piece because a lot of times when you look at, and I’m not a data scientist, but sometimes you look at the data and you’re like, you know, it helps students go to college, this many students that take dual enrollment or enrolled in some sort of dual credit or something like that have a higher likelihood to graduate. And you know, I always want to dig a little deeper and go, well,


Maybe it’s just self-selective, right? The students that are, yeah, it’s.


Amy Williams

Yeah, selection bias. Who’s gonna raise their hand for a college class? Someone who’s thinking college already, right?


Matt Sterenberg

Yeah, and it’s quite honestly, it’s the high school counselors sometimes picking the students who they think are most ready or, you know, I remember, you know, sitting at an assembly in high school and they’re doing like the National Honor Society, they’re bringing all the students up. I’m like, is this something that we could have applied for? Or is this, you know, it’s just like stuff’s happening when you’re not one of the gifted students. You’re like, is this, was I qualified for this? You know, and so even AP.


I don’t remember anyone telling me, hey, you should really do it. And maybe I wasn’t ready, right? But there’s an element of they’re only picking the students or the families are opting in when they would have been successful already. So how do you get past that and open this up? And I do want to hear you talk about career as well, because there’s another piece of this that’s we’re talking about college credit and that’s going to immediately turn some people off, students and families that are like, and listen, yeah, college isn’t for everybody. So tell me a little bit about the career side of it too, along with just obviously you’re passionate about the equity side.


Amy Williams

Yeah, well, let’s talk about first the turn, what I call turning the battleship, right? Like this is a, you know, this went from a small niche-y kind of program that you’d find here and there, to now we’ve got well over a million students participating per year, and probably well over a million students participating per semester. You know, reference my earlier data quality conversation. So we talk about this a lot as like turning the ship, right? Like it is a big, loosely organized, massive element that we don’t really have like a rudder or engines because we’re just an organization that provides useful information. I mean, fundamentally useful information and fantastic connections, right? And so we do talk about how we can help turn this ship And I think education is where it always starts, right? Like these programs kind of spun up for a reason based on very frequently personalities at the college and the high school. So how do we build a system that actually provides the knowledge that people need to understand who can benefit from these programs? Because we know that it’s more broad and more diverse than we’ve ever seen based on some of the peer-reviewed research. And there are nuances in that peer-reviewed research. Some groups might, some students of color might be faring better where there’s a missed opportunity in others.


There’s a fascinating paper recently out, I think it’s Journal of At-Risk Students that talks about, hey, should middle and low achieving academic students be taking these courses? Turns out they find a benefit from it. And then there’s an entire like element to unpack, okay, well, why is there a benefit? What element of these programs really engages them? Is it the relevancy that they know they’re actually working towards the future? Is the ability to pick the content area?


So like there’s an entire different conversation based on that. But I think really helping this paradigm shift propagate is all I wanna say like a messaging campaign is just helping people understand. And I think you make a really salient point about the adults in the room, right? Like those parents that the college background are more likely to have their ears perk up when the kid brings a sheet home or they show them something on social media or they’re sitting in a parent information center. So how do, or session.


Amy Williams

So how do we make that a normal conversation for a broad swath of students? And I think that that’s more of a messaging campaign and an education campaign. And so that’s why we really leaned into that message for the AASA piece, because we know that superintendents and building principles can be key champions and have led to significant and lasting sustainable program development and growth and nuanced and fit really well into the high school setting. So how do we get more people on the same page with that? And we are totally aware, and I’ll just own it because I had to do a stint as an administrator in a high school in a very short time, or for a very short time period. We are hyper aware of like how much of a superintendent’s day, especially in a complicated evolving education landscape this is, so we wanna make it easy, accessible and the message is clear as we can to say, look, this can serve a big broad swath of students. Let’s talk about how we could help you improve your program.


Matt Sterenberg

So let’s say I’m a superintendent of a school district. I love what you’re saying, right? And I’m thinking about how I’m actually gonna do this, right? My immediate reaction is how am I gonna, because 86% of dual enrollment happens in the high school. I’m taking a college course in the high school. So how am I gonna get my teachers scaled up to teach this? How am I gonna free up their time? Time is always this valuable resource for students and teachers and administration. And then obviously I’ve gotta get the coordination with community colleges in my area or four years in my area and all that stuff. So walk me through, I’m a superintendent, how do I begin to even think about this? What would be the baby steps? And one of the pinch points, if you could be candid about it of, hey, this is a difficult, this is where some people can fail.


Amy Williams

Yeah, I think pinch points are a great place to kind of start. Well, OK, let’s do baby steps, right? OK, so we do have a guide called the High School Guide that really lays out what you can expect in the relationship for our high school partners. And I think that’s an important place to start, right? Because there are a lot of, you know, because these programs can be nuanced and highly contextualized to their setting there are a lot of variations in flavors. Like they’re all still ice cream, but there are a lot of different flavors of the same ice cream and that dictates kind of the ingredients that go in is what you’re trying to get out of it. So I think that’s a good starting point is just get that baseline understanding of what these programs are and are not at a fundamental level so that you can kind of myth bust some of those realities that maybe you heard from someone you sat next to at a conference as well.


I used to talk about this field in a way that I used to call this like the platypus of education, right? Because when I was talking to some people, it was a bird-like mammal. And then when I was talking to others, it was like a mammal that had reptile characteristics. There are different variations in here, but the uniting features are very common. And because they are common, you can kind of fit these into a variety of contexts. So I would say, first step, get educated. We have a resource for that.


Second step, start talking to two-year and four-year potential partners and see what the landscape is. And heck, maybe even before that, talk to peers in your statewide peer group, because we do feel that states have the most, in a field that has heterogeneity, the most likely programs to be like the program you’re going to build is going to be in your state. So talk to a couple of peers and see what their experiences are. Start investigating, and this will sound maybe scary to some superintendents, but you know, start investigating state policy. Although a lot of times that context has already kind of made very real for them as well. But there are a lot of options if you’re good at reading policy to really understand where the guardrails are and what is fair game in between those guardrails. And then I would say, don’t go it alone. Build a small community and build with intent. Start with a kind of a small program and then build from there. Because we do feel like, or we have seen that these programs tend to, when they are started,


Amy Williams

And I don’t even want to say like, you know, put your ambition away and start small, but like get your feet wet on something that’s, you know, encapsulatable. And then I’ll try and tie this back to the CTE because there are really good examples about why you want to start small there as well, but start small and then look to build a plan to scale. At our Minneapolis national conference in 2022, we had a rural superintendent who I actually pulled in to do a sidebar in that school administrator magazine piece. Who’s really done.


this work at a very deep level at both a small rural district and a suburban district and really feels deeply invested in this. So those kind of peers can help you navigate the waters, help you understand what is and what isn’t possible and address some of those pain points, which the pain points tend to be teacher requirements, having a teacher that is either qualified or is really motivated and excited about doing this. That would be one area.


Funding is another one. Who’s going to pick up the tab? Even things that are free or are not fundamentally free, someone else is picking up the tab. The one that I tend to hear a lot about is differential scheduling. If you’re trying to do something like the state of Utah uses interactive TV. The course scheduling on the college campus as well as the high school end up being really important. So those kind of things is how do we navigate the scheduling? How do we navigate the funding? And where do we get our teachers are kind of those common pain points. And then as you already pointed out, the time thing, right? So that’s another kind of plea for start small and build to scale. Also, when you start small and you have, and particularly in an area of high need, you can demonstrate value. And we do see that these programs tend to get to a point where there’s a bit of a tipping point where it’s hard to get started, then it starts getting easier and easier. And then before you know it, you’ve got a program over here doing, you know, one focused on healthcare, you’ve got one on engineering, those kinds of things. And I would say the other thing to look for, particularly for superintendents in their role is like, how does this fit with the overall paths you’re trying to build for students onto whatever comes next, right? Like, is this part of your college and career initiatives?


Amy Williams

And if so, what should that look like? Do you have a program that really has leaned in on the biosciences and prep for healthcare majors? This would be a great place to add that early value for students and that tangible value they can carry with them. And so going back to the CTE programs thing, this was an area that was deep in my heart as an educator is giving students that experiential, relevant education, helping them find a passion and develop that passion, regardless of where it leads. So I mean, I hope you know, it eventually leads into some sort of post-secondary degree or training. Um, just from the standpoint of that seems to be the direction the modern workforce is has been moving for decades and looks poised to continue to move. Um, so start with those basic elements. I look at what your programs offer currently and then build from there. So we used in the state of Montana, we use this on the CTE side. When I was state director, I felt like we really tried and I just tell my team probably to their great annoyance.


We really got to try and get the trifecta of experiences for students. Get them a little bit of college credit, get them some work-based learning, and if we can get them a certification, we have given them by the time they cross the senior year finish line, we have given them multiple options that is more specific and more targeted than they would have gotten had they not participated. Career exploration and…When we do this with 17, 18 year olds, I mean, some of the coolest people I know are on their fourth or fifth career, right? Like, and we’re seeing this more and more often. But we wanna give students at least a direction to start to explore and build those confidence steps because regardless of whether they end up going into, let’s say nursing or business administration, some of those skills are directly translatable, those professionalism skills, the soft skills, the knowledge of workforce and how workforce works. So those are really key components.


I don’t know if that gets enough into the CTE space for you. I’m willing and able to go deeper.


Matt Sterenberg

Well, no, I’m glad you brought up the certificates piece, because I think an important piece is thinking about student pathways. So what difference does it make if I have college credit if I’m not really interested in pursuing college? Or you are interested in pursuing college or career, for instance, but you aren’t really sure what you want to do. And so you’re not really sure what courses to take. We talk a lot about credit transfer and there’s a lot of lost credits. And sometimes it’s not even lost credits, it’s just credits that don’t really mean a lot to me. They transfer, but they didn’t really provide me any value. So I think the difficult thing is we know how important it is to have a plan, but it’s also how realistic of an expectation is it to be like, hey, you’re 16. What do you wanna do for the rest of your life? When all of us…like you didn’t grow up being like, I’d really like to be the executive director of an accrediting organization. So, but we all know that credentials are currency, and obviously at Parchment, we believe that education and credentials are transformational. So like the ability, I think, to be able to get something tangible in the hands of students quickly, number one provides value, and I think just provides, you know, it has a transactional value that I think, I don’t know, just allows them to move forward a little bit better. So on the CTE front, I think the more that we can credential people and then obviously in the US, we just have this major gap in terms of jobs that are available that we don’t have the workforce for. So there’s that whole thing. We could probably talk about just CTE in general for a long time, right?


Amy Williams

Yeah, we probably could. But it is, like, it’s an important element to just give students, like, if they’re, you know, they’re living in high school with their suitcase, they’ve maybe tried on college, they figured out what they like or they don’t like, or even more important, like, they built some academic confidence, right? Okay, so college is potentially possibly an option because I took this, it was good, it was hard, but I did okay. And I think the transferability of credentials is really important, especially to employers giving students that option to be able to show an employer, no, I’ve completed this certification which covers X, Y, and Z. That is, I think for education that’s a really strong symbol that we are engaged with workforce. We see the value of preparing for workforce and are willing to meet those needs by getting students introduced to either certifications or college courses that might ultimately lead to a certification or degree or that work-based learning experience to open their eyes and broaden their insight of what the world of work really looks like in this specific career area.


Matt Sterenberg

So Amy, you brought up the F word earlier and that is of course funding. So can you briefly, well, yeah, depending who you talk to. So what are the ways it’s typically funded? Just briefly how, you know, again, if I’m a superintendent, it’s like, give one of the, what’s option A, B and C for me?


Amy Williams

Yeah, option A, B, and C is usually set by the state level. But, okay, let’s assume, so this is an interesting question because there is the state approach and then there is the, these grew up from the grassroots approach. And when you look at the grassroots approach, there was no state funding, right? So state funding can be a pretty critical role and shameless plug June 21st, we’re actually gonna have a session on kind of the current state of state funding as we’re in the process of updating a resource called Funding for Equity that really just talks about how states can use their funding formulas to better initiate and drive forward equity in these programs. So if that’s your jam, we’ve got a webinar for you on the 21st. But states approach this in a variety of different ways. I’ll start at the grassroots level in case you happen to be in a state like I was that provided zero funding.


Look at the federal programs. There are several allowances both in ESSA and also as well in Perkins that allow dual and concurrent enrollment to be funded. And especially in the workforce space and the business and industry space, one of the key pain points for CTE is the right kind of equipment or the right kind of training for instructors. In my background and history, we went directly out to business and industry saying, hey, we would love to help get students more exposure to this career field, but we don’t have this equipment and we don’t have this instructor trained and they stepped up and they helped with that. So I think that’s a really important element of how you share the burden of some of those higher ticket items in terms of funding. In terms of grassroots student elements, we’ve seen in the history with these programs in states that have zero funding. Usually the college is eating the cost of tuition on their end or the high school is contributing some of their annual student funded or the per pupil funding towards the college to offset the cost. Because that’s based in the history, there are state funding models that are kind of fundamentally based on that. Minnesota is an interesting example. If students come to the college campus, then the state now reimburses part of that cost. But if students are staying in their high school, then the school district receives a little bit more funding, but part of those funds flow to the campus. That’s the program that is coordinating on the program. There are other states that have a specific line item in their budget for this to ensure that students have the tuition covered, that students have books covered, in some cases transportation covered. So that’s kind of all the bells and whistles approach to state funding, whereas, you know, I have no state funding is a little more scrappy and you have to come to an agreement with your partner about like, okay, how much of this cost are we willing to eat? How much of these funds can we untether?


How much can we pull business and industry into this work to make sure that they are, you know engaged excited and prepared?


Matt Sterenberg

The state policy piece is interesting, especially the funding piece, because especially after talking to Amanda in Kentucky and just seems like they really care about this, they believe in it, and they’re passionate about what the outcomes are.


And what it means for the people. So they, they’re trying to track it in terms of, I think it’s called Kentucky works or whatever, where their longitudinal data system. So I think for States to be able to tie into all the other initiatives that they have, like every state has their like Alabama works, Michigan works, you know, like every state cares about talent, retaining their talent so that they can attract industry and all this other stuff.


And they also have like the Lumina Foundation thing. You know, we wanna have 60% of adults, yeah, holding a credential and being able to plug this in and to be able to track the students and to look at, here’s how much students are this close to a credential or a college degree or whatever it may be, I think is, I don’t know, invaluable, but it’s obviously difficult anytime you’re talking about like funding and but I don’t think you’re going to get huge scale unless you have you know policy at the state level that really works.


Amy Williams

Yeah, and we do say that, or we do see that state funding does help these programs to scale, right? Because funding does a couple different things. One, it’s funding, right? That’s helpful. We love to be able to backfill budgets and make sure that, you know, we’re getting the bills paid. There’s also a signaling element to it, right? Like, you know, there is that quip, you know, show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you prioritize, right? So if the state is actually throwing funding at this, that’s a specific signaling, again, to both post-secondary and secondary leadership saying, oh, okay, so the state really cares about this to the extent that they’re gonna provide some funding for it. There was, I’ve done a lot of work, probably a decade worth of work with a variety of different states. And some of the first conversations I would always have with them is, first and foremost, what are you trying to do with these programs? What do you want to accomplish? Is it an attainment goal? Great, is it an attainment goal that’s focused on four-year degree completion or is an attainment goal focused on, let’s get someone a credential or a certification or a two year degree. So like these objectives are really important because form really should be dictated by this element of function. These programs can be customized, so why not build what you actually want? And those aspirational conversations, and I know Kentucky has been deep in them, those aspirational conversations are really important for setting that North Star that you’re trying to navigate for. Once you have that put together, the rest of it is just working the details out of how you move there. A lot of times, because of the grassroots nature of these programs, these started at the program level and then kind of gained critical mass that the state started to pay attention. And then it’s more of a pragmatic funding. Okay, what do you guys need? Okay, so we’ll offset tuition or we’ll offset books.


So I like the other, I was working with a state the other day where they’re like, we feel like we’re way behind everyone else. And I said, actually, that’s an advantage. Some of these states have been working on these programs for 30 years. You have 30 years of statute to review in terms of what they had, what they changed and why they changed it. And so that’s a really important starting point is, you know, build with intent because, you know, these programs can live in a variety of different places and flavors. So figure out what you’re trying to get to.


Amy Williams

And it seems elementary, but really it’s essential. And the other question I always ask states, which is usually not a popular question, is tell me what you know about these programs, and then they’ll tell me a variety of things. And I will say, tell me how you know that. What is the data? What are the outcomes metrics that you’re using? How are you monitoring this? Especially if a state is putting money towards this, because as a taxpayer, we want to know that investment yields long-term results. And so,


As states start to build towards this and have a vision and a priority and the way to measure it, that gives them the capacity and the data to start telling their story about what they’re doing with this. And that fits really well into some of those like attainment goal conversations. And another element that I’ve talked with a bunch of states about is like, this is a critical tool to have in your toolkit when you talk about attainment goals, but it’s not the only tool and it can’t be the only tool.


It’s just one of those things that you should have, one of the arrows in your quiver that you should definitely have and make sure that it’s ready to roll. There are a variety of different other ways to engage adult populations and out of work populations as well, and those are also equally important. This is just one on the younger end of the spectrum that you should attend to.


Matt Sterenberg

Um, I feel like we’ve covered a lot, Amy. I have a few other quick questions. Is there a reason to use the word concurrent?


Amy Williams

Okay, so given the grassrootsy nature of these programs, and I used to have a slide for this, I don’t have it with me today, the terminology is highly varied. In fact, HLC, the Higher Learning Commission, did a study, I think it was in 2013, and they found like 58 different terms statutorily used. So if I’m working in the state of Colorado, anything where a student might be taking a college course in the high school is called concurrent enrollment statutorily.


If I’m working in Arkansas, it’s kind of the same element. If I’m working in California, it’s called dual enrollment as the umbrella term. If I’m working in another state, oh, in Minnesota, if they’re on campus, it’s PESO, post-secondary education opportunities. If I’m in the high school, it’s college in the schools. So, and like, don’t even get into Washington. Washington has their own interesting nomenclature on their own. So I use the word concurrent enrollment, A, because it’s in our moniker and B, because it is deep in the foundation of our organization. So, NACEP describes concurrent enrollment specifically as the program model where the high school instructor is teaching generally through the regular high school day. High school instructor meets the adjunct criteria of the post-secondary partner.


Um, so that is generally referred to as concurrent enrollment, but I already gave you at least two states that use concurrent enrollment as their umbrella term. And so again, this kind of hearkens back to NAACP’s role in the field or our attempted role in the field is building that, you know, alignment around common language, common understanding and common practice.


Matt Sterenberg

What didn’t we talk about that we should talk about?


Amy Williams

I’m trying to think of like my best pearls of wisdom. You know, and I don’t always try and come in hard, like these are very unique, they’re nuanced, and you kind of need to know what you’re doing, but you really should. Now, if you don’t know what you’re doing, get the basics and engage others in this work. There are people out there that have walked this walk for a number of years that are eager and passionate about helping, and we can get you in contact with people that can assist you on your journey.


So don’t feel like you have to go it alone or reinvent the wheel. We do see this from time to time, especially in areas where people are a little bit shy about putting their hand up and saying, we’re not doing much of any of this. Is this something we should be tuning into? So don’t go it alone. Don’t be afraid to ask questions because there are a lot of them and lean in on resources. I think those are the kind of the key elements. I would also say. I did reference like peer-reviewed research, which can be really daunting for people. You know, you kind of quipped, I didn’t grow up thinking I was gonna be NACEP’s executive director. I actually started out as a research scientist. So I love peer-reviewed research. I understand that’s a weird, uniquey, quirky thing about me and not everybody does. So we actually put out like a monthly to quarterly publication that is called Research Spotlights where we have members of our research commission break down peer-reviewed research into small usable functional bytes for practitioners to use. We also have them do a research roundup where they dig in and have a conversation about those papers that they highlighted quarterly. So if you’re concerned about or not comfortable with peer-reviewed research, which by the way is the one that’s showing us some of the most compelling work on engaging students, low socioeconomic students, students that don’t come from a post-secondary educated family students of color, both Latinx as well as black African American students. Those are some of the emerging areas and there’s this very cool interplay between research and the movement of the field where practitioners are trying out new things and then researchers are coming in and studying them or the reverse can happen where researchers have studied a program or have looked at a practice that’s prevalent in another area of college or high school and applied it to dual enrollment. So there is this interplay, don’t be afraid of the research because that’ll show you how wide the funnel can be. And then I would always say, and this is actually remiss that I haven’t said it earlier, but like start with students, right? Make sure that students understand these programs, find value in these programs, and can feel like their district and college are investing with them, in them through these programs.

There’s always more to learn.

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