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Dual Enrollment Program Celebrates Its Fifth Year at AU

The program is the first offering from SOE’s Teacher Pipeline Project.

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Some of the Dual Enrollment Students from 2023-24

“The things I really enjoy about being in the Dual Enrollment program are meeting the AU students because I learn from their experiences being a college student; having a college professor who always asks me my opinion about different topics; and spending time on the campus, which feels normal now,” said Kelly Simmons, a senior at Washington, DC’s Ballou High School and Dual Enrollment student at American University’s (AU) School of Education (SOE).

SOE is celebrating the five-year anniversary of the Dual Enrollment program, the first of the school’s Teacher Pipeline Project, where multiple programs work in tandem to increase the number of teachers in DC, address the lack of diversity among its teacher workforce, and fortify teacher retention, among other objectives.

A recent report from DC's Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education, Strengthening Student Access and Success in Dual Enrollment in Washington, DC, stated that “far too many DC public school graduates are not set up to complete higher education, with negative impacts on their economic futures and life outcomes.”

The Dual Enrollment (DE) program helps solve this problem by allowing DC high school seniors to concurrently take college courses to expose them to the rigors of college life and college-level coursework. The experience calms participants’ concerns of an intimidating or impossible transition into higher education, arming them with confidence, an outcome envisioned by SOE Dean Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy when she conceived the school’s teacher pipeline.

“The overall goal of the Dual Enrollment program is threefold,” said Holcomb-McCoy, who conceived of the program. “We want to increase the number of DC high-school students exposed to education coursework and education as a possible career, to increase the number of DC high school students who complete university or credits, and to increase DC high school students’ familiarity with American University in general.”

In 2018, Holcomb-McCoy, already committed to the effort to rectify the nation’s teacher shortage crisis, collaborated with District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS); DC’s Office of the State Superintendent in Education (OSSE); and AU President Sylvia M. Burwell to launch a DE program at the university with a teacher preparation component where participants could attend AU following graduation from high school. The credits earned from DE classes could be used towards the completion of their degree program.

“Dual enrollment programs have experienced significant success and have consistently shown promising aspects and results,” stated Holcomb-McCoy. “The year we established our DE program, a Maryland study indicated that dual enrollment participation in twelfth grade positively affected college enrollment, degree attainment, and workforce wages. This confirmed that we were on the right track. Also, ninety-five percent of our dual enrollees identify as Black or Latinx, which helps diversity DC’s pool of teaching candidates.”

Since the program’s inception, forty dual enrollees have taken a three-credit course for two semesters at SOE, placing them in the same classrooms as AU students and earning them six free college credits before their first day of class at their college or university. Eleven have enrolled at AU.

The program’s Faculty Coordinator, Dr. Toks Fashola, has been instrumental in ensuring that DE students succeed. “The bonus of a faculty coordinator is that they serve as an immediate support system, observing students in class and checking on them to make sure they have completed their assignments, but also reassuring them that their voices are very important and that they are critical co-constructors of knowledge, which results in them participating more in class,” she said.

Ballou High School senior and current DE program participant Khai Campbell is a proud beneficiary of the program. “Being a dual enrollment student has really helped me to find my voice when being in classes and spaces that are unfamiliar to me and to speak up about my personal experiences, which is important because I have experienced much of what we are learning about in class,” she said. “I just love the fact that I can get a preview of what’s going to happen when I go on to college.”

In addition to the DE program, SOE's Teacher Pipeline Project (TPP) includes the AU Teaching Fellows and the Child Development Associate programs. AU Teaching Fellows are aspirant teachers who earn free bachelor’s degrees at SOE, then immediately begin teaching via a job placement guarantee from DCPS. The Child Development Associate (CDA) program allows students who complete their CDA at AU to use earned credits towards a Bachelor of Arts degree program in elementary education at SOE or in early childhood education at Trinity Washington University, a CDA program partner. All TPP participants receive full scholarships and support, including transportation, advising, and free exams.  

Holcomb-McCoy is delighted with the results. “We’ve admitted a majority of dual enrollees who applied to AU. I’m so thankful to see clear evidence that our teacher pipeline efforts, with special gratitude to our partners and donors, are working. We are tackling the pervasive issue of equity in education and doing it speedily.” 

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