Connecticut Allocates $3.8M to Increase Availability of College-Level Courses in High Schools

Ninety Connecticut school districts are set to receive additional funding to expand their dual credit programs, which allow students to earn both high school and college credit. This announcement was made by state officials on Tuesday. The aim of these programs, as stated by Governor Ned Lamont, is to make education more relevant and purposeful for young people, providing them with a sneak peek into what lies ahead and instilling confidence and direction.

The chosen districts will receive a total of $3.8 million in funding, with a majority of the funds allocated to districts that serve a high percentage of students of color. Some of the districts receiving grants include Bridgeport, Danbury, East Hartford, Hartford, New Haven, Norwalk, Waterbury, and CREC Magnet Schools. Each of these districts will receive grants of $90,000.

The grant program aims to increase access to dual credit programs for all students, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds. Ajit Gopalakrishnan, the chief performance officer for the state’s Department of Education, stated that the program also aims to address disparities in participation and ensure equitable opportunities for all students, not just to increase numbers. The grant funding helps defray district planning costs and allows partnerships with direct institutional partners. In the long term, the state is considering supporting the costs involved, despite them being minimal for some families.

Earlier this year, a report highlighted disparities in Advanced Placement (AP) courses, where students of color were being excluded. Experts suggested that shifting towards more dual-credit classes could make college-level classes more equitable. Some recent graduates from Wilby High School in Waterbury reported that dual credit courses were not offered at their school.

According to Ajit Gopalakrishnan, the availability of dual-credit courses varies among high schools and partnerships between education departments, individual high schools, and universities. While he stated that “almost all” high schools have some availability of dual-credit courses, he could not immediately provide the number of schools that do not offer these classes.

Data from the state shows that at least 17 schools suppressed information regarding the number of students earning at least three college credits through dual enrollment during the 2022-23 school year. This data is typically suppressed due to low participation and confidentiality reasons. Wilby High School was among the schools that suppressed this data. Other schools, such as New Milford High School, reported low percentages of students obtaining at least three college credits through dual enrollment.

In districts expected to receive funding, schools like Danbury High School, Hartford Public High School, and Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk reported that less than 10% of students were receiving college credit through dual enrollment. In other districts like Colchester, Weston, and Westport, the rate was around 82%.

Ansonia High School Superintendent Joseph DiBacco highlighted the impact of these courses, stating that about 40% of the high school’s upperclassmen earned three or more college credits. He was joined by two students who shared their positive experiences with dual-credit courses, emphasizing the preparedness they gained for college and the financial benefits. The state’s grant funds will primarily be used for stipends for teachers, reimbursement for training, purchasing equipment, and developing strategies to encourage more students to participate and understand the benefits of earning college credit.

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