Brittney Crews took so many dual-credit courses at rural Halifax County High in South Boston, Va., that she received an associate degree weeks before her 2011 high school graduation ceremony.
“It helps you go ahead and start your life instead of having to stay so long in school,” said Ms. Crews, 19, who now attends Jefferson College of Health Sciences in Roanoke, Va.
Ms. Crews’ situation isn’t unique for Halifax County High. Nearly one-fifth of its 407 seniors earned associate degrees by the time they graduated last school year, and 91 percent finished high school with a college transcript. The approximately 1,700-student school has become a leader in dual-enrollment participation in the state for its emphasis on dual-enrollment courses.
Halifax County High has accomplished that despite its rural location, and it did so through a number of efforts, such as encouraging high school teachers to become college instructors, creating satellite sites for dual-enrollment courses, and raising its number of student participants by offering college-level classes in career and technical education areas.
The Halifax County district, which enrolls about 5,900 students, expanded its dual-enrollment portfolio under the leadership of its former superintendent, Paul Stapleton, who wanted to see more of his students go to college.
“It was like most things in education,” he said. “If there’s a need and you’re in a rural area, you try to solve a problem. You know no one is going to come to your rescue.”
Students in dual enrollment earn both high school and college credit for taking the same course. More than 70 percent of public high schools offered dual-credit courses about 10 years ago, according to the most recent available figures from the National Center for Education Statistics. But rural schools often face difficulties in offering such courses because of their distance from colleges and the high cost of transportation. (Read more.)