Dual credit classes: a new opportunity

Students are trying out a new high level class option that gives college credit


Photo by Photo by Max Feldman

Dan Ellis, math teacher, mentors his multivariable calculus students. The dual credit class offers a different teaching approach, shifting from a lecture style class to one that is more collaborative.

Max Feldman, Staff Writer

One teacher, one class, and two opportunities for credit. With the unique ability to teach college curriculum directly, dual credit classes are all the rage right now in high schools across the country.

These new classes are able to give college credit without having to take an AP test at the end of the year, according to Bo Vossel, principal. This new format is gaining more and more popularity, with the number of students taking college-level courses within a dual-enrollment program increased 80% over the past ten years, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. These new class options have already been put in place this year with the class multivariable calculus, Vossel says. According to the principal, the reason why these classes are becoming more popular is that they prepare students for the next step.

“Ultimately our goal is to have every student leave Lake Zurich High School prepared for their next level. It might be work, it might be the military, it might be a college or university. It could be a wide variety of things, but our goal is that when students leave our halls they are ready for whatever comes next,” Vossel said. “We talked a little bit about what we have to offer, and that gave the impetus to start to look into some dual credit options.”

Dual credit classes are worthwhile option because they offer students college level material, so they earn credit at the high school and credit for college, Vossel says. According to the principal, one reason for that is that dual credit options are more aligned to what colleges actually teach for that course.

“For example, you might have a dual credit course that is aligned to Eastern Illinois University. The idea is that if you went to take that course at Eastern Illinois University, you would see a similar textbook, you would see a similar pace, you would see similar learning objectives,” Vossel said. When a student takes a dual credit class, the grade they get at the high school is the grade they get in college, so “if you get a B [. . .] that counts at both the university and the high school.”

Since dual classes teach a college curriculum, they are going to be taught a bit differently, according to Dan Ellis, teacher of a dual credit multivariable calculus class. Ellis says that he does not really teach, but “mentors” the students.

“It’s been an adventure. [The students] are really supposed to be learning [the curriculum] on their own, so I don’t really stand up and teach every day,” Ellis said. “The hands off approach is very new, and it has forced me to get used to a more collaborative learning process. The old lecture style class where I would just give notes wouldn’t really work for this class.”

There are lots of different teaching styles put in place for college classes, Ellis says, and not every dual credit class will be the same. In fact, the way in which the class is taught depends on the college it is associated with. Along with teaching styles, testing may be different from traditional AP classes, which may draw in some student interest, Alyson Niermeyer, junior who plans to take a dual credit class next year, says. Since the class is more dependent on student performance throughout the year, Niermeyer says that a dual credit class is less stressful than an AP class.

 “A lot of the time we are always thinking about that looming AP test in May, and sometimes that may not always be the best option. I love the pacing and the challenge of an AP course, but if my college credit depended on the cumulative grade I got in the class, that would be a lot better,” Niermeyer said. “It’s almost as if what really counts is how hard I tried overall, and not how I did on some test.”

Students like Niermeyer say these dual credit classes are an exciting opportunity for next year. Those opportunities are mostly targeted to students like Niermeyer, academically ambitious juniors and seniors. Students will be able to see for themselves what these classes offer to a greater extent next year, Vossel says. According to the principal, there are going to be five new dual credit classes next year, including Spanish V, accounting, and engineering.