PSEO information lacking on many district, charter school websites / Joe Nathan’s Column

A new statewide study of 87 Minnesota district and charter school websites finds most don’t follow the state law requiring them to post “up-to-date” information about the Postsecondary Enrollment Options law.

PSEO allows Minnesota students in grades 10-12 who meet certain standards to earn free college credits.

Minnesota provides some of the nation’s best opportunities for students to earn college credit while still in high school. That includes courses for college credit taken at high schools, via the Internet or on college campuses. But for students to make informed decisions about whether to participate in PSEO or other dual-credit courses offered in their high schools, they must have accurate information.

Center for School Change report cover

The study, done by the Center for School Change, where I work, examined one district or charter high school website in each of Minnesota’s 87 counties. For this column, we looked at an additional 41 websites corresponding to schools serving ECM Publishers communities. What we found was that less than 1 percent of those 128 websites described six key aspects of PSEO.

The study includes recommendations for the Minnesota Department of Education to slightly revise its PSEO website, athttp://bit.ly/1nubZ1H, based on a few changes made by the 2015 state Legislature. The study also recommends that MDE urge district and charter public schools to use MDE’s website to review and update their websites and materials distributed to students and families.

The PSEO law, found at http://bit.ly/1Nq00R1, is very clear about what legislators expect. Subdivision 7 reads: “By March 1 of each year, a district must provide up-to-date information on the district’s Web site and in materials that are distributed to parents and students about the program, including information about enrollment requirements and the ability to earn postsecondary credit to all pupils in grades 8, 9, 10, and 11. To assist the district in planning, a pupil shall inform the district by May 30 of each year of the pupil’s intent to enroll in postsecondary courses during the following school year. A pupil is bound by notifying or not notifying the district by May 30.”

Our review examined whether each website met these six criteria:

–Includes PSEO information on its website.

–Describes the 10th-grade PSEO option involving career and technical classes.

–Mentions that PSEO courses can be taken online as well as on a college campus.

–Explains that funds are available for students from low-income families to receive transportation assistance, allowing them to get to a college campus.

–Clarifies that PSEO covers tuition, books and lab fees.

–Tells students that they must notify the school by May 30 if they want to participate in the PSEO program for the following school year.

Here’s some of what we found in reviewing school websites in metro-area communities:

–Bloomington: The Bloomington Jefferson and Kennedy 2015-16 Registration Guides mention that PSEO covers tuition, books and lab fees. It explains that PSEO is available for students in grades 10-12. It doesn’t discuss the other issues mentioned above.

–Farmington: The district’s 2015-16 registration guide mentions that PSEO covers tuition, books and lab fees. It gives the wrong date (March 30) for students to notify the school. Another page on the district’s website mentions the 10th-grade option.

–Fridley: Fridley’s website accurately covers each of the six issues mentioned above. However, it also states that the PSEO law was designed in part to allow students “to enroll full-time or part-time in eligible post-secondary courses not offered at local high schools.” Students may participate in a variety of college or university courses, including those offered at their local schools.

–Hopkins: It covers five of the six issues mentioned above. The only thing it does not do is to give the date by which students must notify the school that they will participate in PSEO the following school year.

–Osseo: The website mentions that students in grades 10-12 can participate and that PSEO covers tuition, books and lab fees. It gives the correct date by which students must notify the school of their participation in the following school year. The website does not discuss the other issues mentioned above.

–St. Louis Park: Although the district website does have a search function, I was not able to find information about PSEO.

–Wayzata: It mentions the 10th-grade option and provides two links to the Minnesota Department of Education website for more information. The first link works; the second is broken.

The Center for School Change study (found at http://bit.ly/1Jcqho0) was researched and written by Marisa Gustafson, CSC assistant director; Diana Chao, a CSC summer intern and recent Macalester College graduate who earned an A.A. degree as she graduated from high school in New York; and yours truly. We recognize that PSEO is only one of several good dual-credit options. We looked carefully and accept responsibility for any mistakes.

CSC will redo the study in December because students will begin registering in January for the 2016-17 school year. We hope to see significant progress.

To make informed decisions, students and families need to know about PSEO.

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