By Luke Hammill
High school students in the Hillsboro School District might find out at the end of this year that they’ve received college credit at Western Oregon University, without having taken Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses – the traditional methods of getting college credit in high school.
Thanks to a new partnership between Hillsboro teachers and WOU professors, 12th-grade students in certain “traditional” math, English, Spanish and art courses at all four Hillsboro high schools will be awarded WOU credit if their work is determined to match up with college-level work.
“AP and IB will continue to be an opportunity for students in the high schools,” said WOU Associate Provost David McDonald. “But the major challenge with most of those programs is they are self-selective to a group of students who must be aware of the programs and must have the confidence in their ability to perform at those levels and have the financial ability to pay for them.”
McDonald said there would not be any additional assessment that students would have to take to earn college credit; Hillsboro teachers are working with WOU faculty to make sure the assessments that already exist in high school contain the rigor commensurate with entry-level college courses. That would ensure that students didn’t have to pay for extra testing. AP exams, on the other hand, cost $89.
Travis Reiman, the Hillsboro schools’ executive director of teaching, learning and bilingual programs, traveled to WOU on Nov. 1 with a group of Hillsboro teachers, who met with WOU professors to determine how their students could be awarded WOU credit. Reiman said they will meet again at the end of the year and place student work, with the names redacted, side-by-side. He predicted that an observer might not be able to tell whose work came from high school and whose from college.
“Does this work match up?” Reiman asked, explaining the system. “If it does, they get [college] credit.”
McDonald said the aim of the program is to show students who might not think themselves college-ready that they are capable of doing university-level work if they meet the qualifications.
“Every student, regardless of their career aspirations, regardless of their college plans – everyone is exposed to college algebra or a trig in high school,” McDonald said of the partnership’s goal. He hoped that the program would eventually expand to subjects like Algebra 2, biology and chemistry.
Oregon Sen. Mark Hass (D-Beaverton) serves some of the Hillsboro School District, and he sits on the state’s new Accelerated Learning Committee, whose goal is to take programs like the one between Hillsboro and WOU and establish a uniform statewide system for more high school students to earn college credit.
“If a kid can come out of Hilhi with 15 credits or 40 credits, that kid has saved his family or himself thousands and thousands of dollars toward the cost of a bachelor’s degree,” Hass said after a committee meeting, commending the Hillsboro-WOU partnership. “And that’s the ultimate goal here, not to mention making their high-school careers productive.”
Reiman said more information for students and parents is forthcoming from the district next month.