PSO options are a great gift

Last week Minnesota legislators and Governor Mark Dayton gave a great gift to Minnesota families and students. Legislators extended Minnesota’s pioneer Post Secondary Options law to allow 10th graders to take career and technical courses on college campuses.

Because of young people’s creativity and insight, new YouTube videos are available to help young people and their families understand the value of dual (high school/college) credit courses. Last week, as well as throughout the 27-year history of Post Secondary Enrollment Options, young people were helping explain PSEO’s value.

In fact, as the picture shows, Governor Mark Dayton asked Paj Ntaub Lee of the Center for School Change staff (where I work) to explain the importance and opportunity of PSEO and other dual (high school/college) credit courses.

The new legislation allows Minnesota high school sophomores to take a free career/technical course on a college campus. If they earn at least a “C,” they may take additional PSEO career technical courses during their sophomore year. State funds will pay their tuition, lab and book fees. High school juniors and seniors already may take career/technical and academic courses with the same provisions regarding books, lab and tuition. Jennifer Dounay Zinth of the Denver-based Education Commission of the States, says Minnesota now “has one of the most extensive CTE/dual credit policies.”

High school students have worked with the Center for School Change to produce YouTube videos that help explain the value of dual (high school/college) courses. These include Advanced Placement, College in the Schools, International Baccalaureate, Project Lead the Way as well as Post Secondary Options. Some of these videos are really lively, like the video entitled “Jump.”

Virgil, who is taking AP courses, raps, “I hop on my computer ‘cause I control my future. I slip on my glasses as a jump start to my classes.”

In “Success,” Talia sings, “Before you graduate, college doesn’t have to wait.”

Iram says taking dual credit courses is “the best decision I made in my life.”

Paj Ntaub worked with the groups PACER, Migizi, High School for Record Arts, Neighborhood House and the Minneapolis and St. Paul Public Schools to produce these (free) YouTube videos. The Minnesota Department of Education, through the federal Voluntary Public School Choice program, provided funding. The videos are in English, Spanish, Hmong, Somali and Arabic. They’re at: http://www.centerforschoolchange.org/dual-credit/.

As these videos show, dual credit courses can help young people be better prepared for college, reducing the likelihood that they will take remedial courses. Taking these courses also can help young people save literally thousands of dollars in college costs.

Legislators did not go as far as we proposed. But opportunities have expanded. That’s a great gift to the state.

Joe Nathan, formerly a public school teacher and administrator, directs the Center for School Change at Macalester College. Reactions welcome, jnathan@macalester.edu.

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