November 27, 2020
Thanks to Sydney Files for today’s post. This post is the part of the series Our Mission Extends Beyond Us.
One goal of the International Commerce High Schools is to prepare students for their post-graduation goals, including technical training, community college, or a four-year university. The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) is one program implemented at the high schools to help students save time and money in reaching their future objectives.
The College Level Examination Program is a prior learning assessment that helps students earn college credit for a fraction of the cost. Registration fees are inexpensive compared to a college course and less expensive than the equivalent AP exam ($89 versus $124). Another advantage of CLEP is delivery. Testing is available in an on-demand environment. Students can schedule an exam when convenient for them and do not have to wait for the next enrollment date or testing window. In Arizona, CLEP scores are accepted widely at local technical schools, community colleges, and state universities, making it the most affordable and flexible option for students to earn college credit.
There is comprehensive research to show that CLEP is a cost-effective way to help students achieve a post-secondary education. First, studies demonstrate that CLEP students have better course performance in tertiary education than their non-CLEP peers. Compared to students who did not earn credits through dual enrollment or prior learning assessments, CLEP students have the highest transfer rates to four-year schools, the highest graduation rates, and the highest bachelor’s degree completion rates. These statistics are considerably higher when looking at first-generation and underrepresented college students. Along with higher completion rates, students with passing CLEP scores graduate in a shorter time, with a higher GPA, and fewer credits than students who did not pass the exam. Lastly, CLEP results in significant time and cost savings for students. Individuals who earned thirteen to twenty-four credits from prior learning assessments avoided an extra 6.6 months of school. All of these studies demonstrate that CLEP exams are instrumental in helping students achieve further education. It is one of the most effective tools to help the International Commerce High Schools’ targeted population – adult learners, underrepresented populations, and first-generation college students.
The International Commerce High Schools became certified testing centers in October 2018 and since then has offered the test to its high-achieving students. Potential candidates for the program score a 165 on the GED Ready exam or demonstrate study skills and knowledge required to take college-level coursework. After completing foundational courses and demonstrating advanced study skills, students complete their first CLEP course that includes a study guide packet designed by faculty and online curriculum through Modern States. Students meet periodically with instructors to conduct inquiry-based discussions to improve retention, answer their questions, and identify improvement areas. Discussions address completed work and are tailored to meet the student’s academic needs. Along with personalized instruction, students are given access to many reference materials: REA subject-specific CLEP prep books: Encyclopedia Britannica Online, Algebra to Go, Geometry to Go, Writers Inc, and The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. Once students have completed the curriculum and discussions to a satisfactory level, they are placed in a practice test. Upon passing the practice test, students are then registered and placed in the actual exam; all paid for by the school.
Since the program’s initial start in 2018, the International Commerce High Schools have had over forty-five students take CLEP exams in nine different subjects. Thirty of these students have passed, earning credit for College Mathematics, College Algebra, American History I, American History II, American Government, Principles of Macroeconomics, College Composition, Spanish, and Biology. Over 30% of these students scored at levels equivalent to a B letter grade in a college course, earning over ninety college credits in total. Students have earned credits for entrance into colleges and universities and also to shorten the amount of time they will spend pursuing their degree. Many of these individuals are first-generation high school graduates, and many of them will also be first-generation college graduates.
These high levels of achievement speak to the intensive education students receive through the inquiry-based discussion process. Students have an individualized learning plan focusing on one subject and moving through the curriculum quickly upon demonstrated mastery. Students demonstrate their knowledge through discussion, where instructors guide students through content by asking questions on curriculum read by the student. If students are unprepared or unsure of their answers, instructors empower students to find the answers to their questions by showing them where to look rather than telling them the answers outright. This process has helped both low and high-achieving students alike to earn college credit through CLEP.
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