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Kids in the crossfire

By Bill Knief

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At least one school board member seems to be having a hard time getting a passing grade on the topic of the value and purpose of the dual credit program currently up for renewal by the board. As a result, in a recent meeting the school board felt obliged to put off authorizing the longstanding program, which allows students to receive both college and high school credit for specific courses.

A crash course on the subject seemed to be in order, so I first checked to see if, as implied, the dual credit program was just some plan hatched by UNM-Taos to bump their numbers. It took less than a minute to determine that it was not, because there it was, just below the Great Seal of the State of New Mexico on a document entitled Statewide Dual Credit Master Agreement:

“SB 943 (Laws 2007, Chapter 227) creates a dual credit program in state statute….Affected parties must refer to 6.30.7 NMAC or 5.55.4 NMAC for rules regarding dual credit implementation.”

In other words, the program is authorized by state law. Surely, board members are already aware of this; the statement leads off the very document they are being asked to ratify.

Next, I decided to contact the real experts with hands-on knowledge of the effectiveness of the program—those students and their parents who have actually participated in dual credit. This is what just a few of them had to say:

Jeremy Cordova, 2007 Taos High School graduate currently enrolled at CNM Albuquerque in culinary arts: “I took dual credit classes and it really helped me get it together. Attacking this program is just hurting the students. If a student wants it and it helps them out and it’s free, why not? This program is for everybody, not just one special group.”

Lauren Romero, 2007 Taos High graduate currently enrolled at Menlo College, Menlo Park, California: “I took dual courses my junior and senior years in psychology, chemistry, history and English and I was basically able to skip a whole year of college. I started out as a freshman and ended up a second semester sophomore by the end of the year. The dual credit program must have saved us $20,000.00. That’s a really big deal. My sister is a sophomore and wants to do culinary arts, and she will probably take dual credit culinary arts classes. If you are planning on going to college or even thinking about taking a year off, dual credit is a good opportunity because it will help you in the long run.”

Erlinda Gonzales, UNM-Taos employee, former Taos Town Council member and mother of a student who has one of the highest accumulations of dual credit in the history of the program: “We enrolled Francine in her first dual credit course when she was sixteen, with Dr. Kate O’Neill in psychology. She liked it and continued to sign up for dual credit, mostly in science and math. By the time she finished she had 36 hours which she took to UNM main campus. She graduated last May with a double major in political science and math. Now she is getting ready to go to law school, and she still comes back to thank her instructors. Parental involvement is the key to everything, so I encourage parents to make sure their kids know about this program. Sure, there may be classes that are not transferable—my daughter took Mariachi, for instance, and she may not have been able to use that—but students know this because the classes that transfer are marked, and advisors make them aware of it as well. Dual enrollment around the state is something every college is looking at and trying to promote. It is nationwide, not just here in Taos.”

Michelle Gallegos, Taos High graduate, UNM-Taos Work Study and student: “The twelve hours of dual credit I got gave me a big push. If you’re not planning to go to college, it can give you that incentive. It’s a start. And financially, because it doesn’t cost anything, it’s a wonderful program that they offer here. I can say that my parents are very happy. I think it is a good opportunity for everyone. All it can do is benefit you.”

Doug Swinehart, parent: “I have had four kids who have attended Taos High, but my daughter Hailey is the best example of the value of concurrent classes. She graduated with full honors from NMSU this spring, the only female with a degree in mechanical engineering, and to my knowledge all of her dual credits transferred. Now she has accepted a position with Lockheed Martin where she is a mechanical engineer in the planning department at the NASA space center in Houston working on the new space shuttle project. I talked to her last Thursday and she was upset at what she saw as the faulty logic behind the dual credit issue, because in her case it allowed her to graduate a year earlier. That is a great economic advantage, but you also have to ask yourself, how much is a year in a person’s life worth? It would be one giant step backward to deprive our children of the program. And I must say, if there is one person who has dedicated their life’s work to the betterment of education in northern New Mexico, that person is Jim Gilroy.

Michele Glenn, BA, MA, CTEFL, PhD candidate, 2002-2005 ESL instructor at UNM-Taos and UNM-Taos student in eight science and math classes. She phoned in from Baltimore, Maryland: “Any suggestion that courses offered at UNM-Taos are substandard or somehow not up to par really annoys me, because in my experience their academic standards and instructors are exceptional. Every course I took at UNM-Taos to prepare myself for a degree and career in public health was excellent, and credits for these classes were accepted by the graduate programs at both Johns Hopkins University and George Washington University. Anyone raising doubt as to the caliber of UNM-Taos instructors should take a class such as trigonometry, taught by Frutoso Lopez, as I did, and see how he does. As to the dual credit program, it is welcomed throughout America. Our kids are in the crossfire, and it would be tragic to deprive them of this opportunity.”

About The Bill Knief

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