By Codi Titus, Academic Counselor, District Test Coordinator, Special Education, LaCrosse Schools
The town of LaCrosse, Washington, is often referred to as a piece of Paradise, and I would like to think that is a pretty good description of our schools, as well. LaCrosse is situated on the west end of Whitman County on the edge of the Palouse, and is home to LaCrosse Schools. Our small community of preschool through high school numbers around 75 students. Many of our classrooms are multi-age, both in elementary and upper grades. 11th and 12th graders take courses together, as do the junior high students and several elementary classes. This gives students greater opportunity for variety in their courses, and this is how our school leveled the playing field for our rural students who do not have access to Running Start.
I was hired in 2005 to help increase student access to college classes for our rural students. I had just finished my Master’s program at Eastern Washington University, and that was my thesis topic. At that time, advanced placement courses were the new buzzword. We offered these courses for a few years, and then we were exposed to College in the High School, where our students would be guaranteed college credit. Unlike advanced placement where you took a test – a one shot deal – and hoped you scored high enough to earn your college credit, these classes offered instruction and support as students worked through their first college courses. What an opportunity for all our students.
“Our students can leave here with 60 semester credits through College in the High School at no additional cost”
In order to offer these courses, each teacher who would be teaching the class must apply and be accepted by the university, and each university requires a separate application. In our first round in 2012, we had three teachers who offered English 101, Government 100, and Economics 100. That first year, our students who took the classes graduated with 15 college credits. Through the years, we have expanded our program to include math and science courses. LaCrosse has partnered with Eastern and Central Washington Universities for our courses, and now, five years later, the program has grown and our students can leave here with 60 semester credits through College in the High School at no additional cost to the students.
Because of our rural location, college and career readiness is important and supported by our board and community. Our school district applies for grants through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to defray some of the cost of the college courses. Any costs that are not covered by the grant, including tuition and books, are paid by our school district.
In addition, three years ago I started giving the ACT on a school day, and this year I began giving the SAT on a school day. Our district has covered the costs of these tests. This has eliminated the need for our students to drive at least an hour on a Saturday morning to take these tests at an unfamiliar university. For students from such a small rural school, that setting alone can seem overwhelming for a relatively high stakes assessment.
In many ways, we feel our students have a better advantage than those at some of the larger schools. They are taking college classes with an average 8 to 1 student-to-instructor ratio, whereas at a university this would be an entry-level class with 50 or more students. Our students leave our school with college courses, which often gives them preference in registering since they already have college credits. And many of them have their freshman year finished when they leave, which is a huge monetary savings for them and their families. College in the High School has become a true win/win for everyone, and has leveled our playing field.
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