Good news about progress for all kinds of young people / Joe Nathan’s Column

By Joe Nathan, originally published at:


Khalique Rogers and Brittney Poole help illustrate a very encouraging trend in Minnesota. They are among the growing number of Minnesota students who are earning college credits while still in high school. Equally important, the participation gap is getting smaller in most dual credit programs between students of different races and income levels.

Khalique, a senior at Gordon Parks High School in St. Paul, wrote that educators at his school “have introduced and pushed me to believe that college is a possible opportunity.” He is taking a College in Schools math class and a CIS public speaking class. These and other opportunities “made me work harder to have my dreams become reality.”

Brittney Poole and Khalique Rogers (Photo courtesy of Paul Creager and Gordon Parks High School)

Brittney, also a Gordon Parks senior, is taking college credit courses while in high school. Those courses “kept me motivated. … I’ve struggled a lot with school and life situations … (but struggles and college-level classes) made me stronger and (are) still making me stronger.”

Their words affirm growing research about the value of dual credit (high school-college) courses, especially for students from low-income families and families with no prior college graduates. Overall more young people are saving money and making themselves better prepared for some form of higher education – a one-, two- or four-year program.

The accompanying chart helps illustrate Minnesota’s progress. Marisa Gustafson, assistant director at the Center for School Change, where I work, created it. (The full chart is available at

She summarized a 2013 Minnesota Department of Education report on “Rigorous Course Taking.” (The report is available as a PDF at

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This chart shows growth in participation from fiscal years 2007-2012 in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Post Secondary Enrollment Options; and growth from fiscal years 2009-2012 in Concurrent Enrollment. Each allows high school students to earn free college credits.

Dane Smith, an award-winning journalist who now directs Growth and Justice, a research and advocacy group, recently wrote about this topic. He explained: “Affluent and highly educated parents begin steering their own children at a very early age toward post-secondary completion. By middle school or high school, these advantaged kids often are already likely or assured of admission and completion. We know from our research at Growth & Justice that early and aggressive efforts to get ALL students on track to some form of post-secondary training or education pay off.” (Read more about transitions into higher education in the document from Growth and Justice at

Smith continued, “Especially effective are programs that allow students to get a few college credits while still in high school. Closing racial and income disparities, by improving completion rates and the quality of post-secondary training and education, is the most important investment we can make toward healthy and sustained business growth in Minnesota. Consensus on this fact is overwhelming.”

There’s plenty of work left. But it’s important to acknowledge progress. This has come, as Smith writes, from growing agreement among K-12, college and university educators, Gov. Dayton, Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius and legislators of both parties, business and community groups. More well-educated, better-prepared young people will help produce a stronger, healthier Minnesota.


Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome, please comment below.