Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Havre High School and Montana State University-Northern are teaming up to offer high school students the chance to earn college credits along with their high school diploma. Havre High School Principal Jerry Vandersloot said he hopes the program will help students easily move into higher education. “I’d like to see us streamline the process for our kids, so the transfer into college is as smooth as possible,” he said. The new writing class will be teamtaught by Steve Lockwood, professor of English at Northern, and Havre High School Engl i sh teacher Kevi n Shellenberger. Passing the class will give students both credits toward their high school diploma and college credits that can be used at any college or university in the Montana University System, as well as most colleges around the country, said Joe Callahan, provost at Northern. “They would have a head start at a college education,” he said. Vandersloot announced the new class at the meeting of the Havre School Board Tuesday. He said in an interview earlier that day that everything is ready to go, except for one thing. “We have to recruit students into it,” Vandersloot said. “We’re missing the most important part.” This is Havre’s first step into the field of dual accreditation, a growing program around the nation. Vandersloot said the Montana Legislature passed a law in 2001 allowing the dual accreditation, but there have been some roadblocks in dealing with teacher accreditation. In the last year, the state Office of Public Instruction created a new class of teaching license allowing college instructors to teach classes in public K-12 schools. With the licensing now available, Havre is moving forward with the project, something Vandersloot said they have been looking at for some time. “We’ve been waiting for an opportunity to kick it in,” he said. Jessica Rhoades, communications director at the state Office of Public Instruction, said dual accreditation classes have been taught in various forms in Montana, including: Classes taught online; At high schools with high school teachers employed by a college to teach the classes, as is the case with Anaconda High School working with Montana Tech in Butte; and Students going to a college campus to take classes, as is the case with Kalispell students taking classes at Flathead Valley Community College. Of Montana’s 171 public schools, 66 are offering dual credit classes this fall, Rhoades said. The Havre students will have to pay tuition to Northern to take the class. Callahan said that runs $191 a credit plus a $30 application fee, which would come to $603 for the three-credit writing class. The payment must be made in advance. Vandersloot said the Havre school district is planning to give some of that back depending on the student’s performance in the class. “If the students perform at a certain level, academically, behaviorally and in attendance, there is the likelihood some of the tuition will be refunded,” he said. Lockwood said that as the program grows it could translate into major savings for students. He said he envisions high school students being able to take care of the entire general education requirements for college by the time they graduate from high school. Doing that would take care of a year’s worth of college courses. “That’s a pretty big savings,” Lockwood said. The first class is a writing class, Writing 110 in Northern’s catalog and a new offering at Havre High. Vandersloot said the class is a writing class, supplemental to the writing component in the sophomore English class and to the Advanced Composition class. Vandersloot said the class is a test project, and he is interested in trying to add more dual-accreditation offerings if it works well. “We need to see how this goes off, how it works for everyone,” he said. “I am interested in more opportunities like this for our kids.” Callahan said the university also is interested in working with other area schools to set up similar programs. “MSU-Northern looks forward to partnering with area schools to benefit the local students,” he said. Lockwood said he has been pushing for years to start a dual-accreditation program. He said the classes give another benefit besides getting college courses out of the way they seem to be especially popular with students who hadn’t decided whether to attend college. “It gives them a chance to try a college course but in familiar surroundings,” Lockwood said.