‘Free college credit… Are you sure?’

By Ashley Ball, Classroom Chronicles

Located roughly an hour from Nashville, Culleoka Unit School, a rural school with fewer than 1,000 K-12 students, is sending kids to college, every day. No commute. No tuition.

Culleoka Unit School was one of 47 schools participating in the state’s first College Algebra dual credit pilot program during the 2013-14 school year. Nearly 2,000 Tennessee students were enrolled in the pilot dual enrollment courses across the state.

With only three math teachers for grades 9-12, the school needed creative options to offer upper-level courses to their students. Because Advanced Placement (AP) certifications aren’t always an option for educators and a commute to dual enrollment courses at area colleges can be challenging for students, Culleoka wanted to give their students the chance to earn college credit while staying put.

Dedicated to providing Culleoka students with the same opportunities available at larger schools, high school math teacher Mallory Hubbell applied to participate in the dual credit program pilot.

“I want our kids to squeeze as much as they can out of their education. I want them to have all the same advantages as everyone else,” Hubbell said.

Hubbell, already an adjunct professor at Columbia State University teaching math remediation, is familiar with college-level math and the skill deficits she wanted her students to avoid.

“Not only does this give them the chance to earn college algebra credit, but they get a taste of what is expected in a college class. It is helping students and teachers know where they need to be headed,” Hubbell said.

The pilot curriculum, developed by secondary and post-secondary educators across the state, culminates with a pass or fail challenge exam. Passing the exam is their ticket to three hours of free college credit, transferable to any Tennessee college or university.

Kailee Skaggs, a senior in Hubbell’s dual credit class, plans to be a teacher and saw this as a safe way to test out college algebra.

“You have the comfort of your high school math class, but yet you are earning college credit,” Skaggs said.

The courses are completely free to students. Hubbell says when she pitched the idea of earning free college credit in a high school classroom to parents and students, she was met with disbelief.

“I heard a lot of, ‘Are you sure? We can really earn free college credit?'” she said.

Students say while the course was challenging, it pushed them to achieve at new levels. Hubbell estimates roughly 25 Cullekoa students will enroll for the 2014-15 school year. Those in charge of the program estimate another 2,000 Tennessee students will enroll this coming school year across the state.

In addition to this year’s pilot courses, College Algebra and agriculture business and greenhouse, students can earn credit for criminal justice and sociology during the 2014-15 school year.


Ashley Ball, Classroom Chronicles

Ashley Ball manages content for Classroom Chronicles. She is a journalist turned educator.