Lawrence school board approves 26 new high school courses for next school year

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence Public Schools district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

The Lawrence school board approved adding 26 new high school courses for the 2019-2020 school year that district administrators said would create post-graduation employment opportunities and increase the odds of college success.

Patrick Kelly, director of the Lawrence College and Career Center, made the board’s approval easier with the news that the courses would not require additional staffing.

Eleven of the new courses would be available through the expansion of the concurrent-course program the district offers in a partnership with the University of Kansas. Concurrent courses count toward a student’s high school graduation requirements and are accepted as college credits, Jennifer Bessolo, district curriculum director, and DeAngela Burns-Wallace, KU’s vice provost for undergraduate education, told the board.

The program will expand on the English I and college algebra courses already offered to juniors and seniors with courses in English critical reading, speech, biology, elementary statistics, American history, political science, psychology, anthropology and Spanish, they said. They would also be separate from the advanced placement classes offered in high schools.

The expanded college introductory course offerings would provide students the flexibility to enhance their college experience, Burns-Wallace said.

“It gives students the opportunity to jump into advanced courses earlier but also opens up opportunities to think about double majors or studying abroad,” she said.

Concurrent courses have proven to be an effective preparation for college success, Burns-Wallace said. Students entering college with 10 or more hours of college credit were three times more likely to receive a degree in four years, she said.

The offered courses would be applicable to a wide variety of college majors, Burns-Wallace said. Although she candidly admitted KU hoped the expanded program would recruit more Lawrence students to the local university, the introductory courses would be accepted by most universities, she said.

All the new offerings would be one-semester, three-hour credit courses, Burns-Wallace said. Tuition would be one-third that paid by students on the campus. For the fall 2018 semester, that would be $303 a class.

In response to a question from board member Kelly Jones about affordability, Superintendent Anthony Lewis said the goal was for the concurrent courses to be a benefit to all students — not just those who can afford the tuition. As a first step, the Lawrence Schools Foundation board has agreed to provide scholarships, but he acknowledged more work had to be done to make sure students weren’t excluded because of their inability to pay. Citing Burns-Wallace’s comments on the greater success of students who enter universities with college credits, Lewis said the courses could be a pathway for some students to become the first in their families to enter college.

“This is legacy work we are doing,” he said. 

The board also approved offering 15 new courses in the academic subject-matter pathways of information technology and law, public service and safety. Kelly said a course of study in the law, public service and safety pathway would progress from introductory courses for freshmen or sophomores, to skill courses learned in classrooms and finally to professional development through advanced college-credit classes or internships.

For example, students in the law, public service and safety pathway would take an introductory course in law, public safety and security, advance to pre-med classes and anatomy, and then emergency medical first response and emergency medical technician training offered by Johnson County Community College, which would earn students EMT certification, he said.


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