Efforts by the School District of New Berlin (SDNB) to encourage students to complete a college-level experience while still in high school are paying off. Approximately 90 percent of graduates take advantage of a college-level experience prior to graduation. The district reports a promising trend in the relevance of student choices related to their personalized academic and career plans.
In the past, students were encouraged to create a course plan that would lead students to Advanced Placement (AP) coursework. These courses can result in college credit if the student earns a qualifying score on the AP test and the credits are accepted by the post-secondary institution the student chooses to attend. These courses, however, are not the only way to earn college credit and are not always the best fit for students. The district’s implementation of Academic and Career Planning (ACP) aligns a student’s learning experiences to their personal, academic, social and career goals. This includes planning for college-level coursework.
Based on a longitudinal review of district data, students are leveraging additional dual enrollment opportunities to inform and support their investment in post-secondary education and training. Most recently, the percentage of graduates earning non-AP college credits jumped from 49.7 percent in 2016 to 67.6 percent in 2018, an increase of nearly 18 points. These credits tend to be more closely aligned to what a student is interested in learning about and/or developing skills that will be important to their future career goals.
Over the past few years, the district has significantly expanded their college-level offerings. SDNB teachers act as ‘adjunct professors’ for Waukesha County Technical College, UW-Waukesha (now UW-Milwaukee College of General Studies), UW-Milwaukee, UW-Oshkosh, and the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Teachers have been certified by the post-secondary institution to teach their coursework. In the case where a certified teacher is not available, the district has partnered with post-secondary institutions to have the class taught in district by a college professor. For example, data structures is taught by a professor at Marquette University. Students are also allowed to take courses onsite at their college of choice through Wisconsin’s Early College Credit Program or through agreements crafted between the SDNB and select institutions. Many of the credits earned
can be transferred between institutions.
Wisconsin’s current dual enrollment program is fragmented and makes it difficult to effectively guide students on how to obtain college credits which will both inform their future investment in post-secondary education and/or training and potentially expedite time to degree. The district consulted with an advisory group of post-secondary partners to develop strategies to address these challenges. This collective work resulted in the “Accomplish More in 4” campaign to increase awareness of college-level programming as well as resources to support the counseling team as they work with students to map out their ACPs.
“The extent to which students decide to engage in college-level coursework while in high school is a personal choice and should be aligned to their Academic and Career Plan,” explained Kelli Kwiatkowski, Director of Secondary Teaching and Learning. “Our counseling team has been trained to guide students through a progression of steps and decision points to help determine the right fit at the right time for college level coursework. Students are encouraged to take at least one college level experience but we are now in a position to guide them through how to complete an associate degree before finishing high school if they so
In addition to expanding the scope of college-level coursework and purposefully connecting it to a student’s ACP, the district implemented a practice placement test for college-level English and math during the 2017-18 school year. “The practice placement test, in addition to other assessment data, provides us with an opportunity to guide students to appropriate learning experiences their senior year to avoid the need to be placed in remediation coursework in college before they can start on their degree,” Kwiatkowski added.
“The School District of New Berlin’s ‘Vision of a College and Career Ready Graduate’ includes both nationally recognized and locally informed indicators of post-secondary success in college, career and life,” Superintendent Joe Garza said. “Our entire staff is committed to ensuring that students are prepared for whatever their future holds. Successfully completing a college-level experience is one of those indicators. We want all students to feel confident in their ability to succeed in college-level work before they graduate regardless of whether they pursue a military career, registered apprenticeship, 2-year degree and/or a university degree.”