To the Editor:
I read with concern your article in the June 29th issue about the new dual enrollment opportunities for students at Ashe County High School. As a college writing instructor for almost twenty years in various parts of the country (including my current position as a member of the Composition Program faculty at Appalachian State Univ.), I have found that first-year college students are much more likely to be under-prepared than over-prepared. Dual enrollment programs that allow students to eliminate or drastically reduce one or even two years of high school prevent students from experiencing repeated and extended literacy-based activities that are crucial to their success in college and in life.
While writing is only one aspect of a high school curriculum, I believe that developing college-ready literacy skills is one of the most important goals that high school students should pursue. Well-designed high school literacy experiences in all disciplines, for all four years, foster essential habits in reading, writing and critical thinking that high school students require to meet the demands of college-level courses. Dual enrollment courses reduce opportunities for high school students to engage in literacy experiences that are geared towards their developmental level.
In your article, Chris Robinson, Director of the Ashe County Campus of Wilkes Community College, suggests that dual enrollment programs allow students to enter the workforce more quickly by accelerating and collapsing their high school education. However, a recent survey conducted by Lisa Redman, Program Coordinator for the ASU Center for Entrepreneurship, reveals that local employers often find recent college graduates to be lacking in basic writing skills that are essential to their job success. Ms. Redman’s research should be of concern to Ashe County high school teachers and administrators, since it suggests that reducing the number of years of instruction that high school students receive in literacy-based activities will have an even stronger negative effect on their job success after college.
For these reasons, I hope that parents, teachers and school board members in Ashe County will look carefully and critically at dual enrollment programs. It seems to me that such programs encourage students to focus on acquiring college credits rather than acquiring the critical thinking abilities demanded by our increasingly complex world. I believe that high school students need MORE instruction and experience in reading, writing and critical thinking before beginning college, NOT LESS. We should strengthen the high school curriculum and make it more rigorous, particularly in literacy-based activities, instead of encouraging students to “fast forward” into college-level classes for which they are likely to be ill-prepared, both developmentally and intellectually.
Marcy Llamas Senese, Ph.D.