Dual Credit and Advanced Placement while Learning at Home

UPDATED – 27 March 2020 – Additional guidance about dual credit classes from ISBE, ICCB, and IBHE has been released and is available online here. Everything in this new guidance aligns with the “Dual Credit” section below, and it offers additional specific suggestions for ensuring students can access online coursework as well as for individual plans for students to complete the coursework and for late withdrawals if necessary.

With all Illinois schools being closed for on-site instruction due to Governor Pritzker’s Executive Orders (Executive Order 2020-10), school districts and community colleges have made a tremendous shift to distance/remote learning on a never-seen-before scale in a a matter of days. While there is a great deal of flexibility that may be on offer in a variety of classes, Dual Credit and Advanced Placement courses present unique challenges–namely, that their successful completion will also designate to other (future) institutions that the student has mastered specific skills and concepts.

Advanced Placement Changes for Spring 2020
On Friday, March 20, 2020, The College Board, the not-for-profit organization that administers the Advanced Placement (AP) program and creates, implements, and scores the AP Tests, made announcements about its plans to modify AP Testing for Spring 2020. Key elements of this decision include:

  • 45-minute, one-question free response tests in place of multiple choice plus free response tests that take hours to complete
  • Limited curricular scope that should include only what was already covered
  • Opportunity to cancel participation free-of-charge if students wish
  • Online testing as well as the option of photographing and sending a handwritten response (with support from College Board to help ensure access to both devices and the Internet for students who do not currently have both at home)

Additionally, beginning on March 25th, online support led by teachers will be available for students from The College Board via the AP YouTube Channel. A full schedule and resources can be found here under the header Free AP Review Classes.

Dual Credit Classes
In keeping with the spirit of Illinois’ Dual Credit Quality Act and the Model Partnership Agreement, it is necessary for the community college or university offering the postsecondary credit and the school district that is offering and teaching the dual credit course to agree upon the standards and criteria necessary to continue with the awarding of postsecondary credit to students.

With school districts, community colleges, and four-year universities all moving to online and remote learning environments, there is a common basis for these discussions and decisions. In gathering feedback from school districts and community colleges throughout the P-20 Network and who are serving as leaders on these issues through the P-20 Network’s Dual Credit Think Tank, the following steps are suggested between school districts and postsecondary institutions as best practices at this time:

  • Discuss – Be sure to open the lines of communications about what is expected with regards to curriculum, how it is delivered instructionally, and how the skills and concepts will be assessed.
  • Make similar adjustments – As universities and colleges make adjustments to curriculum with the move to learning at home, those changes should be communicated to school districts, and it is reasonable to expect the school districts to make the same adjustments rather than simply expecting them to continue on as originally planned. It is critical that the course objectives are clear and consistent across school districts and the higher education institution, and that all students are being supported with meeting those objectives.
  • Trust school districts – Just as face-to-face courses in higher education have moved online, school districts will need to do the same with their dual credit courses like all of their classes. Additionally, teachers in school district settings are certified by the state as a result of their strong background in pedagogical coursework and their student teaching experience, so they should be as well-prepared as faculty in postsecondary institutions to make these adjustments.

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), like other state agencies in Illinois and around the United States, are working through these policy challenges and seeking to provide clear guidance as quickly as possible. If guidance specific to Dual Credit is issued by either or both of these agencies, that should be followed. (It will very likely be issued by both jointly.) At the moment, ISBE has told school districts in its most recent March 23rd Guidance Document:

Please work with your community college partners to ensure that students will not be penalized by these circumstances. ISBE and ICCB are working on additional coordinated guidance.