Eagle County Schools expands, improves dual enrollment through multiple grants
Through its enhanced focus on the program and partnership with CMC, the local district has become a statewide leader
Over the course of the past two years, Eagle County Schools has received three rounds of a Dual Enrollment Expansion grant to grow and improve its dual enrollment offerings. Through this enhanced focus and close partnership with Colorado Mountain College, the local district has become a statewide leader in the space.
“As a percentage, we have a larger percentage of our student involved in (dual enrollment) classes than any other district in the state,” said Katie Jarnot, the assistant superintendent of curriculum for the district, at a school board meeting in October.
For the past couple of years, the local district has put resources and time toward expanding its dual enrollment offerings as just one way it is preparing students for whatever future they’re reaching for.
The district coordinates closely with Colorado Mountain College on its dual enrollment program, which allows high school students to simultaneously earn high school and college credit. Eagle County Schools also pays tuition expenses for students who pass the classes.
During the 2019-20 school year, 618 students across the district were enrolled in dual enrollment courses — 32% of the district’s high school students. And this year, at the spring 2021 commencement at Colorado Mountain College, 37 Eagle County high school students earned a certificate or degree from the college.
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The success of the program, according to Jarnot and the district’s dual enrollment expansion coordinator Trisha Forman, can be attributed to its relationship with Colorado Mountain College as well as the significant number of teachers that are able to teach both high school and college level classes.
Overall, the program not only provides students with additional academic rigor and confidence, but it allows students to take college courses and receive college credit — much of which is transferable to other colleges — while still in high school. These courses allow students to pursue courses in interests such as auto (and bike) mechanics, nursing and, next fall, in construction. This program, Jarnot and Forman said, is only one pathway in which the district is preparing its students for life after college.
“One of the biggest takeaways, or reminders, from the research was that (dual enrollment) is one of the many pathways that we offer to our students in the area of post-secondary and career readiness. And so with that being said, while these themes were specifically identified related to the dual enrollment research, they actually pertain to a number of our other programs and our comprehensive post-secondary system,” Forman said at the October school board meeting.
Grant-funded growth opportunities
The three iterations of the Dual Enrollment Expansion grants have funded a wide variety of opportunities that have enabled the district’s dual enrollment programs to grow and flourish. The 2019-20 grant funded tuition reimbursement for district teachers to get dual enrollment certified, which allowed the district to offer more subjects and sections.
The 2020-21 grant funded research to answer several questions about the program including how it could be made more inclusive, what makes students take dual enrollment courses versus AP classes and how the district can help students find success in dual enrollment and AP courses. This cycle also funded a curriculum review for its dual enrollment American History course.
As a result of this grant opportunity, the district hired Forman to answer these research questions. And as part of the most recent 2021-22 grant, Forman’s position was renewed to help put the research findings from the prior iteration into action.
However, another grant — the Sync Up Grant, which was awarded to the district alongside YouthPower365 and the Vail Valley Partnership — will allow the district to fund her position into the future. This funding is closely related to the district’s dual enrollment progress as it was awarded to the collaborative to bolster post-secondary and career readiness for local youth
Through her research, Forman sought to gain a better understanding of who is enrolling in these dual enrollment programs, ensure student participation in the programs represents district demographics and seek opportunities to improve, not only dual enrollment, but all of the district’s post-secondary and career readiness programs.
“One of the most common questions I got, just through this research was: ‘Why is the state giving the district money to do this research?’” Forman said at the school board meeting. “Basically, strengthening dual enrollment programs within the state of Colorado is one of the strategies the state that the sees in terms of helping and supporting (students) live their education goals in the state.”
As a result of this research, the district came up with both district-wide and school-specific action steps to ensure it is growing and maximizing the potential of its dual enrollment program. Jarnot and Forman said in a recent email to the Vail Daily that there were four goals the district set as a result of feedback received throughout the research.
First, is increasing resources and support for students and families in navigating all the different college and career readiness options available to them.
Second, is creating a common, systemic system of support across all the schools utilizing post-secondary readiness programs. Jarnot and Forman said that due to the exponential growth of these programs in recent months, centralizing support and guidance — through a team led by Mandy Spannagel — will create consistency in the programs without increasing staff workload.
Third, the district is aiming to improve and expand the process behind its Individual career and academic plans to better guide students through high school and into a career.
And lastly, the district plans to implement additional pathways through career technical education programming with one or more of the classes inn this progression being a dual enrollment course.
Moving forward these main goals will drive the action steps throughout the district, however, there are also school-specific goals that were identified as part of the research:
- For Eagle Valley High School this includes increasing support of its AVID program, which is a college readiness program.
- For Battle Mountain, this includes support for a dual enrollment peer-to-peer mentoring program.
- At Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, the district is aiming to expand its dual enrollment offerings and look at additional credentialing opportunities for its staff
- Red Canyon is the only high school in the district that doesn’t house any dual enrollment classes. The students instead attend Colorado Mountain College for the classes. As part of its future goals, the district would like to increase access, participation and comfort in the dual enrollment offerings here.