Lowell Matthews, Jr., is the Director of College and Career Pathways for ExcelinEd.
College acceleration opportunities—including Advanced Placement (AP), Cambridge AICE, College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), dual enrollment, early college high schools and International Baccalaureate (IB)—can help high school students prepare for college-level work while they earn valuable college credit or work toward a postsecondary credential. However, these opportunities are still out of reach for many students.
ExcelinEd’s college acceleration policy playbooks share the specific steps states and schools can take to improve opportunities and outcomes for their students. Our first playbook identifies a series of nine non-negotiables states, colleges, universities and schools can use to strengthen their college acceleration programs to benefit all students—especially those who have been traditionally underserved. Our second playbook examines how five schools in five different states are putting these non-negotiables into practice.
In today’s post, we’ll take a closer look at one of those schools: Garrett High School in Garrett, Indiana.
Garrett High School (GHS) is in a rural community roughly 20 miles outside Fort Wayne, Indiana. Many of the school’s 600 students come from families who work in the local manufacturing and construction industries. Around 90% of the students are White, 40% are economically disadvantaged and about 18% have special needs.
GHS operates on the belief that all students are college worthy and that college looks different for each student. The school offers an expansive dual credit program in conjunction with its education partner, Ivy Tech Community College. Through this partnership, students earn both high school and college credit. The high school’s largest programs are centered on career and technical education (CTE).
GHS has focused on three non-negotiables to drive dual credit success:
Non-Negotiable:States ensure opportunities are part of a clearly defined and articulated pathway to a postsecondary credential.
GHS offers career pathways in construction, manufacturing, engineering and design as well as business. The school offers dual credit CTE through Ivy Tech, and there are no student eligibility barriers to the construction and manufacturing dual credit CTE courses. Industry-valued certifications are embedded in the Ivy Tech courses, so students can walk away with college credit as well as a valuable credential. From first semester to graduation, GHS has built its career pathways with industry/employer engagement.
On the front end, GHS employs an innovative model to drive student interest in career pathways and dual credit CTE. GHS begins early with design/project learning experiences for local 5th-grade students. One year, for example, the project focused on woodworking projects. All 5th-grade students worked on a table ornament project, which they were able to take home to show their families. The experience continues in middle school with project designs and blueprints. In high school, students have the option to continue the learning experience through dual credit via Ivy Tech. Along the way, students are also exposed to local companies who discuss their skill needs.
On the back end, students can see the value of their learning. In the school’s construction pathway, the community has donated land and opportunities for students to build out a subdivision of housing. For more than 40 years, students have built about one house per year.
Non-Negotiable: States and school districts ensure that educators in all schools receive appropriate training to teach college acceleration opportunities.
It can be challenging for high schools with traditional college dual credit programs to find qualified teachers that meet the requirements of accrediting entities like the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). This is especially true when it comes to teachers with industry-valued skills. Salaries for a welder or machinist, for example, could be double or triple in the private sector compared to teaching those skills in K-12.
Consequently, GHS is working with Ivy Tech and four-year postsecondary partners like Purdue University Fort Wayne and Indiana University Fort Wayne to help its high school teachers earn masters’ degrees and meet HLC requirements. (HLC requires a master’s degree in the specialty to be taught or a master’s degree in another discipline plus 18 graduate credit hours in the discipline to be taught.) While the dual credit credential requirement was stayed until 2022, it remains a significant hurdle for traditional college dual credit courses. Ivy Tech also lends a helpful hand by providing adjunct faculty for much of GHS’s CTE dual credit instruction, including construction, welding, heavy highway and engineering.
Non-Negotiable:Schools notify students in all schools of available opportunities and use state indicators to identify low-income and traditionally underrepresented students with the potential to succeed in college acceleration opportunities. Schools notify students and their parents of the credit transferability for each college acceleration option before students enroll.
GHS’s Director of Career Development Chad Sutton and his team aggressively pursue student interest in CTE dual credit. Along with the project/design work beginning in the elementary grades, GHS engages students and parents through a variety of events. One way the school connects with students is through a signing day. Normally held for student athletes pursuing postsecondary sports, GHS’s signing day for career pathways showcase students succeeding at dual credit and receiving an offer for a middle-skills or higher-skills job. Parents can see how student success, college credit, work-based experience and industry certifications lead to an exciting job offer.
On the career navigation side, Sutton and his team have worked for the past four years with dual credit college advisors from Ivy Tech. These advisors are funded through grants and the Ivy Tech general fund, and they work to ensure students understand the value of dual credit CTE pathways that are vertically linked with postsecondary programs.
Sutton credited GHS’s school culture in driving student enrollment and success in CTE dual credit and career pathways. He and his team have been able to change the mindsets of parents, teachers and advisors to believe that all students are college worthy, and that college looks different for each student because it is more than just a four-year degree.
As Sutton stated, the goal of GHS’s CTE dual credit and career pathways is “the economic freedom of students.” With students earning college credit, attaining industry certifications, gaining work-based experience and completing career pathways, GHS is making that goal a reality.
GHS has been recognized by the state of Indiana with the Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship’s State and Learn (SEAL) Certification for its construction trades program. GHS was one of the first schools to earn the designation in the state. The SEAL certification allows students to earn industry-valued credentials and college credit while participating in paid, on-the-job training.
Students enrolled in the program can graduate high school with: 22 college credits through Ivy Tech; 7 industry-recognized credentials; 1,200+ hours of on-the-job training; and connections to over 40 local businesses/employers for internship, job shadowing, mentoring and employment opportunities.
GHS closed its doors on March 13, 2020, and shifted to a remote instructional delivery model. It was a particularly difficult transition, especially for hands-on learning in the construction and manufacturing pathways. Fortunately, students had completed the contact hours necessary to earn college credit through the CTE dual credit. This also helped the students pass their embedded industry certifications. Students returned in the summer for lab work. Sutton and his team called families individually to bring students in to complete this necessary work.
The partnership between GHS and Ivy Tech is key to dual credit success. Ivy Tech is using its resources and supports to ensure students experience CTE dual credit success. Sutton and Waugh believe the partnership could be strengthened if the state placed additional resources into these programs when they succeed.
Explore ExcelinEd’s college acceleration policy playbooks to learn more.