Alternative Methods for the Awarding of College Credit: Credit by Examination for Articulated High School Courses

Professional Standards

Introduction and Background

Colleges have long had mechanisms for awarding students credit for prior learning, from evaluating transcripts to establishing standards for the units and course credit to be associated with designated scores on nationally and internationally recognized curricula and exams. While the processes for awarding credit via these traditional mechanisms are generally well-developed, other avenues to college credit may not benefit from the same level of standardization and may be in need of refinement locally. Most notably, the awarding of credit in career technical education (CTE) areas for articulated high school work, including courses in Regional Occupational Career Programs (RO CPs), is an area in need of improvement, as increases in the number of articulated high school courses have not yielded a corresponding increase in the awarding of credit. While high schools offer courses in CTE areas to their traditional populations, RO CPs provide high-quality career preparation classes and services to prepare youth 16 years of age and older and adults for successful careers in response to the needs of the local labor market. For simplicity, references throughout this paper will be made to high schools only with the understanding that the entity a college is working with may be an RO CP. Local policies and practices may, in some cases, hinder the transcription of credit earned. Once an articulation agreement has been established, the awarding of credit requires a coordinated intersegmental effort that begins in a high school class and ends in a community college admissions and records office. The intervening steps must not be overly burdensome on the student and the process should not be unreasonably prolonged. Most importantly the process must ensure that the student has achieved the competencies that justify the awarding of credit.

The Academic Senate’s SB70 (2005) initiative, Statewide Career Pathways: Facilitating School to College Articulation (SCP), has created a system that facilitates the establishment of articulation agreements between high schools and community colleges by convening CTE instructors from both segments to develop templates for courses that simplify the dialog among CTE instructors that is necessary to establish an articulation agreement. These course templates, jointly created by high school instructors and college faculty in each discipline via a statewide vetting process, establish the minimum standards for courses that are commonly taught at the secondary level for which college credit may be available. Course templates and the resulting articulation agreements based on them also serve to facilitate the portability of articulated CTE work. Despite SCP’s measurable progress in the form of over 100 templates and an ever-growing list of articulation agreements, informal surveys have indicated that few students are awarded credit for their articulated high school courses. The same situation also exists nationally, according to the Community College Research Center (Anderson, Sun & Alfonso, 2006).

Title 5 regulations permit high school students to earn college credit that is notated on a college transcript credit through credit by exam mechanisms, with no residency requirement. Local policies can enable students to earn college credit for their high school work at no cost or minimal cost to the student in a way that neither compromises the integrity of the college course nor disrupts the smooth transition of a student from high school to college. Such practices are effective in providing high school students college level coursework in a high school setting and provide faculty across segments an opportunity to collaborate to benefit students.

The Academic Senate’s resolution process has established that faculty support the use of credit by exam processes where appropriate, are concerned about ensuring the integrity of such processes, and support the removal of “residency” requirements for articulated high school work.