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South Hills

West Jefferson Hills looks to offer more college courses for HS students

| Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, 5:33 p.m.

West Jefferson Hills School District leaders are hoping to launch a program in 2019-20 that will offer students taking honors classes the chance to get college credit for the course.

The district is working toward a “systemic” program that would offer college in high school courses for all of its honors classes and even some electives, said Scott Milburn, assistant superintendent of secondary education.

“We’ve done dual enrollment, but it was more individualized with students,” Milburn said. “Our goal is to make it more systemic.”

In the past, “a kid finds a course, we approve it,” Milburn said. “It has to be above and beyond what we offer.”

The district now also offers students a choice for some courses where they can take an advanced placement course or do a college in high school program, Milburn said.

“What happens is the kids aren’t taking the AP tests. They’re choosing the college credit,” he said. Instead the district is looking to offer the college in high school course for all students taking honors courses taught by district teachers, Milburn said. The district offers an array of honors courses, from English to geometry to Algebra to symphonic band.

By creating partnerships with universities, the district would offer students more opportunities to get college credit in high school.

The way the program would work is that all students enrolled in honors courses could qualify for college credit, Milburn said.

Students would have the choice to apply for the college credit, pay a fee and get a transcript showing the course on their college records, Milburn said.

“It gives them a reduced cost for college credit,” Milburn said. “It gives them the ability to start building their transcripts while in high school. With enough credits you may be able to get a portion of your freshman year done while in high school. To me that’s the biggest advantage.”

District leaders have begun having conversations with Community College of Allegheny County about the program. They also plan to speak with other universities.

“Whoever’s interested,” Milburn said, listing off universities in Pittsburgh that the district could partner with for the program.

After getting the program lined up, Milburn said, the district will meet with parents and do community outreach.

Both Milburn and Superintendent Michael Ghilani said past districts they’ve worked in have offered this type of program.

Ghilani said there were a lot of students that took advantage of it and paid for the college credit.

“And it’s really their choice in the end,” Milburn said. “So they don’t have to make the choice in the front end. They’re in the honors class, they’re in the class no matter what. At the end if they choose to pay for the credit, that’s a family decision.

The district also is exploring a partnership where CCAC teachers would teach aviation to students. That’s in the exploration phase.

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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