Credit Check

Kids rack up university credits right there in high school. And their districts and colleges ring up ample revenues in the process. But are the students really learning?

Kral and her colleagues also believe one of the reasons Kral's disapproval of the Cy-Fair High government class was met with such surprise is that NHMCCD was eager to have Cypress-Fairbanks ISD residents vote to join the NHMCCD (which they did August 12).

"We wanted to suck up to Cy-Fair in any way, shape or form," says Kral. "Cy-Fair is the tax-base prize of the district, because its tax base is so huge."

Pickelman laughs off the idea of generating funds through concurrent dual credit or coddling public school districts to join his college system.

Professors Carolyn Davis and Nancy Kral have been fighting concurrent dual credit for four years.
Deron Neblett
Professors Carolyn Davis and Nancy Kral have been fighting concurrent dual credit for four years.

"If our interest was to make money on this deal, we would charge tuition," he argues. Pickelman says concurrent credit is a useful, cost-effective benefit for all involved.

"It's a service to our community," he says. "We want to see as many students getting through the system as quickly as possible."

Pickelman believes program critics are just a small group of faculty with a "professional disagreement" over the philosophy behind concurrent credit. While he believes faculty members need to somehow be involved in the development of college courses, they are ultimately not the ones to determine which courses can be taught -- and who can teach them.

"We don't have faculty coming in to approve each of our adjunct professors," he argues. "We want these courses to be treated like any other college course."

With just a few weeks left in the school year, Stephen Head and members of an ad hoc committee of the Tomball College faculty senate gather in a room. They're trying to reach a middle ground to this four-year debate over concurrent dual credit, for the Tomball campus if not the entire college district.

Head, executive vice chancellor of NHMCCD, says he is a very "pro-faculty, pro-staff" kind of administrator, and his ties to faculty go beyond the classroom; his wife is a professor of computer information technology at Tomball. A soft-spoken man, he almost seems surprised that he has risen through the ranks of those in charge. As a former professor, he jokes that he can be "anti-administration," even though he is an essential part of it.

"Everybody involved in this is a friend of mine," Head says. "I'm just listening."

Philosophy professor Michael Capistran, head of the faculty committee, says concurrent credit has been "the most important issue regarding faculty morale." Nancy Kral's not here. She's on the committee but believes it best that she not attend -- she's already been vocal in the discussion and shared her thoughts with Head.

"My position on this, and my discussions with the chancellor, our communication…," Head pauses.

"Was poor," offers Capistran.

"Was poor," agrees Head.

Capistran and the others provide Head with a list of proposals. They include tracking methods such as districtwide exams to monitor the long-range success of concurrent dual credit students.

"I will concede we need some sort of districtwide standards, and more importantly we need some kind of regular review," says Head.

The committee has also proposed that the faculty have a role in implementing the concurrent credit classes and assessing their quality. Professors of each discipline should be directly involved with developing the curriculum, they say. And by working with the high school teachers in the program, the college faculty will feel more comfortable with the teachers instructing the high school students.

For more than an hour, the two sides discuss and debate. Finally, the professors agree to bring the proposal list to their senate. Head says if it is approved there, he'll take it to the executive council of NHMCCD. With the time-out for summer break, that means nothing could happen before next fall.

After the meeting adjourns, Head assures Capistran that everyone wants a solution.

Kral, who helped begin the fight over four years ago, isn't so sure. She's not positive the administration will really make it happen this time or if the committee's suggestions will be quietly ignored by the higher-ups.

"I'm optimistic they can set up some standardized process where faculty feel the dignity of their discipline is upheld," she says, choosing her words carefully. But after a pause she adds, "When I balance that with the money, I'm not as optimistic. At this point it's just a money grab; in the back of their minds, that's the motivator."

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