Rensselaer, Ind. - In order to graduate from high school with an Academic Honors Diploma in Indiana, high school students are required to complete six hours of "dual credit courses from an accredited postsecondary institution." This requirement was initiated by the Indiana Department of Education in 2006 and has caused many high schools to implement more dual credit courses into their curricula. Rensselaer Central High School is not an exception.
Through collaboration with Saint Joseph's College, RCHS students have been able to take Pol 101: American Politics since fall 2010. This partnership between SJC and RCHS has enabled more than 80 RCHS students to earn three college credits prior to graduation.
While Professor of Political Science Peter Watkins teaches the course on SJC's campus, Social Studies teacher Jeff Marlow offers the same course, under Watkins' supervision, in his classroom at RCHS. As a result of close collaboration between the two, Watkins's and Marlow's classes run in parallel. Since initiating the program in 2010, Marlow's students have followed the syllabus Watkins uses in his classroom at SJC, ensuring that Marlow's students are doing college-level work.
"My students have the same discussions, quizzes, and midterms that Watkins' students have on campus," said Marlow. "We are almost like SJC East."
"Jeff and I try to meet every week to discuss where we are in class," said Watkins.
Unlike large colleges and universities that offer dual credit courses to high schools where communication is limited, SJC has been able to create a personal relationship with RCHS. Watkins hopes the close interaction between the teaching faculty and the support the program receives from SJC's and RCHS' faculty and administration allows RCHS students to "hopefully feel as if they are actually SJC students."
"I think of the students at RCHS as not just Jeff's students, but also as my students. They even have my home phone number," Watkins added.
The students at RCHS have access to the SJC Writing Clinic and an SJC tutor. SJC prides itself on its close-knit, family-like environment, and this value is apparent in the dual credit program.
Personal as well as institutional advantages have resulted from the program's development. According to Watkins, working with Marlow has been beneficial for his own teaching.
"Listening to Jeff gives me insight into teaching American Politics, and I appreciate the input he has provided on course development," said Watkins.
It is clear to both SJC and RCHS that both parties have made gains from the program.
"It is a good way to reach out to the local community and for the local community to see some of the things SJC has to offer," said Watkins.
"I continue to be excited. This is a win-win partnership, and I hope it is something we can continue for a long time," said Marlow.
SJC's President F. Dennis Riegelnegg is hopeful that the collaboration between SJC and RCHS will continue to grow. According to President Riegelnegg, "We are currently working with RCHS on the possibility of offering chemistry courses."
Saint Joseph's College, named a "character-building college" by the Templeton Foundation and a "best Midwestern college" by the Princeton Review, is a four-year, Catholic college offering 27 majors, 4 group majors, 34 minors, and 9 pre-professional programs, complemented by the nationally acclaimed Core Program. Founded and sponsored by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, SJC is located in Rensselaer, Indiana, approximately 90 minutes from both Chicago and Indianapolis, on a park-like campus of 180 acres and has an enrollment of 1,100 students.
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