Are some Georgia dual enrollment classes making it too easy to earn an A?

The state encourages high school students to take college courses through Georgia’s Move on When Ready dual enrollment program.

Some high school students have long contended dual enrollment college courses are easier than their school’s AP or IB classes. The AJC’s Will Robinson looked into a report that MOWR classes at a few local high schools awarded an inordinate number of A grades. We are talking all 27 or 28 kids in the class earning an A.

Robinson joined the AJC as an education intern in 2017. He graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in journalism and international affairs. While at UGA, he published two investigative pieces in the AJC about the university’s mishandling of hazardous waste. He was a McGill Fellow and Cox/Society of American Business Editors and Writers Fellow his senior year.

Here is Robinson’s column on what he discovered when he delved into MOWR grading:

By Will Robinson

The Move On When Ready program allows high school students to earn college credit without paying for tuition, fees or textbooks. It is a tremendous opportunity for students to experience college-level courses, shorten the time and expense of earning a degree and distinguish themselves in college applications. But grades from some MOWR classes call into question the quality of the instruction they receive.

Will Robinson

Last fall, eight high schools opened their doors to Georgia State University professors for MOWR courses. In three of these schools, more than 95 percent of students taking College English got an A, and some entire classes received As.

  • Central Gwinnett High School: 96 percent
  • Roswell High School: 95 percent
  • Johns Creek High School: 96 percent

Across all eight high schools, only 59 percent got As, and just 38 percent of college students at GSU did. At Centennial High School, located within 10 miles of Roswell and Johns Creek, only 25 percent of students earned the top grade. Ken Johnson, the English department chair at GSU’s Alpharetta campus, said the grades are not a cause for alarm.

“The grades in the MOWR sections at the high schools are typically high because the students enrolled in those classes are among the best at their high schools,” he said by email. He noted high school students who take MOWR at college campuses are often among the top grade getters there as well.

However, this discrepancy cannot be fully explained by student aptitude. Of the eight schools, Central Gwinnett has the lowest CCRPI, the state’s measurement of school performance, yet it has the second highest percentage of As. Milton and Cambridge high schools scored higher on the state’s academic index than Roswell but have much lower A ratios.

A factor that could be at play is the work status of the professors. Most of the MOWR instructors who teach at high schools are part-time employees. They may, therefore, believe their employment is dependent on high schoolers signing up for their classes. Rubber-stamping As would be a quick way to draw them.

However, not all of the part-time English instructors are easy graders. Furthermore, part-time instructors in other MOWR subjects like College Algebra give few As. They have as much to lose if high schoolers stop opting for college rigor.

GSU released data on MOWR grades (without identifying students) for the first time last semester, so it is too early to call this a trend. Perhaps, a grade of A may be harder to come by in the second semester of College English. Furthermore, most students take MOWR classes at college campuses or online, so the high schools that offer them on their own campuses are the exception, not the norm.

Nonetheless, when three high school classes get all As in classes designed for college students, it raises questions. Why is it that a MOWR English student would have a 96 percent chance of getting an A at Johns Creek but a 25 percent chance of the same fate down the road at Centennial?

GSU must ensure that college courses mean college difficulty. If MOWR aims to provide high school students with a college education, it needs to grade like it.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

5 comments
NorthGADawg
NorthGADawg

Let us not forget also that most high schools, "inflate," these grades by a full letter on student transcripts. If a student makes a B in a college course, it's listed as an A on their high school transcript.

YoJoey
YoJoey

I don't get it.  I did not see anywhere in your article where you mention how the students were performing in other classes.  It's very likely that the students were A-level students.  I'd much rather see an article communicating the benefits of the MOWR program, and encouraging its continued expansion.


I'm very grateful for the MOWR program. My daughter is graduating after her 3rd year at UGA, thanks to spending her senior year of high school at GSU.  Saved us a year's worth of college fees, and saved the Zell Miller Scholarship program a year of tuition.  With medical school next on her agenda, it was great for her to be 1 year closer to her chosen career.

Beach Bound2020
Beach Bound2020

Mr. Robinson has written a wonderful article that exposes the truth behind MOWR at many high schools.  I'd recommend he take it one step further though - take the three high schools listed and do an analysis of the number of A's given in any class on any level -AP, College Prep, MOWR and I think you'll find the data to be very similar. Grade inflation is rampant. MOWR is an issue because it translates to automatic college credit, but the bigger issue is that many students are receiving A's with the false impression that they actually have learned the material equivalently.  Often this catches up to them in college, sometimes not, but sadly our public high school teachers in Georgia have overwhelmingly lost the ability to grade students accurately, especially in some communities. Mr. Robinson has articulated what is only the tip of the iceberg as it relates to grading practices in Georgia's high schools.  And please oh please do not blame the teachers for this, they neither created nor have the power to tackle this. This is the natural result of districts capitulating to parental pressure for their child to get the A and the HOPE at all cost (even actual learning) mentality. 

Jackson
Jackson

That is not 100% true. If you pass an AP class no guarantee on getting college credit. Joint enrollment classes are accepted into all public Georgia colleges as long the classes were taking at a Georgia public college. Also if you go out of state joint enrollment higher likely hood of getting the credit.

Your Teacher
Your Teacher

I teach AP classes at a school where there is a strong MOWR program. The students are bailing the AP programs to go do MOWR. Why? The benefits outweigh the costs. Students that get any type of credit in the MOWR classes get college credit - in some cases at more elite schools like UGA. The courses are not as rigorous (this is not anecdotal based on the evidence you've provided as well as discussion I've had with students in those courses). 


From a teachers perspective, we're fighting an uphill battle. For one, we have to get our courses, materials, and curriculum certified by College Board on a yearly basis at a national level. Technical schools through MOWR do not. Secondly, the students are not guaranteed credit by taking AP. That is, students almost always need to get a 3 and at some places (like UGA) need to get a 4. Only about 25% of students get a four on a given AP exam.  Lastly, many AP classes are encompass many different courses into one semester or year. For example, AP U.S. History takes into account North American history from 1492-present. At many institutions, this is divided into two courses. However, based on College Board mandates, these need to be taught in nearly the same amount of time as one semester.


In my opinion, a great research study would be to pay students that take MOWR courses to take the AP exam in the equivalent course. Sure, there are variables like student efficacy that would factor into performance, but I'm willing to bet my salary that those students do not perform as well on the AP exam as those that took an AP course. 


A solution would be to take core classes (like Math, Science, Social Studies, and English) and make the MOWR program have their curriculum and exams approved by a entity greater then the institution. Hypothetically, AJC Technical School would have to submit their curriculum and assessments to a state, or preferably , a national certification board for approval (or make those students take the AP exam as well). This would cut down on the joke that is rigor in many of the MOWR courses. 


Another solution, a simpler one, is for state institutions (like UGA), to not place greater emphasis on MOWR courses than AP courses.