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Georgia Southern piloting Senior to Sophomore program

High school seniors interested in getting a jump on their college careers are getting an opportunity through a pilot program offered by Georgia Southern University.

The Senior to Sophomore program, administered by the University’s Division for Continuing Education and Public Service, is designed to help students get a head start on college by allowing them to take college-credit courses taught by their high school teachers.

‘Research has shown that the transition from high school to a four-year university is not as seamless as we would like,” said Gary Means, dean of Georgia Southern’s Division for Continuing Education and Public Service. ‘The Senior to Sophomore program will provide students with an idea of what to expect from a university experience. It will get them accustomed to the type of learning and amount of work expected in college but in the more protected environment of their own high school.”

According to Means, the program is in its infancy stage. After a year of planning that began in summer 2006, the program is being tested at Bulloch Academy, where an advanced placement (AP) pre-calculus course is being offered to students who applied for enrollment in Senior to Sophomore.

‘Most high school honors and AP courses have learning objectives and outcomes that are well-aligned with Georgia Southern’s requirements,” Means said. ‘To ensure the course work is truly college-level material, we have a University faculty liaison work with the high school teacher to modify course content, outcomes and examinations.”

High school teachers participating in the Senior to Sophomore program must hold a master’s degree with at least 18 hours of graduate work in the discipline for which they will provide instruction, the same standard required for University adjunct faculty.

‘Another outcome of the Senior to Sophomore program will be an increase in the number of effective teachers,” said Means. ‘During the planning phase, we discovered there are a limited number of high school teachers who meet the requirements to be Georgia Southern adjunct faculty. They may have a master’s degree, but they don’t have the 18 hours of discipline-specific graduate coursework. So an additional goal of the program is to create a mechanism to offer teachers the graduate work needed to help them qualify.”

At the minimum, the program will provide teachers the training and skills that will enable them to help all of their students be better prepared to attend any two- or four-year institution, Means stated. ‘Ultimately, the goal is to establish linkages between students and Georgia Southern through exposure to our faculty and possible experience on campus through field trips, so that we can attract some of the very best students to the University.”

Although Senior to Sophomore is piloting one mathematics class this semester, plans are underway to add composition courses in the spring and extend offerings to schools in Baxley, Liberty and Johnson counties. As the program expands, Means said eventually he would like to provide college-level courses in science, art, humanities, social sciences and other disciplines.

‘We decided to focus on math and composition courses initially because these are the areas that will allow us to have the greatest impact, because the majority of incoming college students have the most trouble with math and writing skills,” said Means.

In order to participate in the Senior to Sophomore program, students must have completed a substantial portion of college-preparation high school courses and have the minimum ACT or SAT test scores for English and mathematics required for Georgia Southern admission. In addition, they must have an overall grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Additionally, program students who seek to formally enroll in for-credit University courses must have the permission of their parents and school. Tuition is $107 per credit hour; students enrolled for more than four credit hours also must pay a $57 technology fee. Qualified participants are eligible for HOPE scholarships.

Prior to joining Georgia Southern last summer, Means served as dean of continuing education at California State University-San Marcos. He also served as dean of continuing education and dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at University of Colorado-Pueblo. During his time at those institutions, he developed similar programs. At each location, the programs partnered with up to 15 schools and eventually enrolled up to 1,000 students.

In planning Georgia Southern’s Senior to Sophomore program, Means started by meeting with school superintendents around the region to describe the benefits of the program and the teacher qualifications needed. Then, he met with individual school principals and their teachers to review their courses and faculty qualifications. Next, this information was provided to the University’s math and English departments for their review and acceptance.

‘It’s been a more time-consuming process than I thought it would be, but we wanted to ensure that this would be a quality program,” stated Means. ‘We’ve taken great pains to be certain that everything would be in place to provide students the same level of instruction that they would receive as if they were on our campus.”

For more information, contact Dr. Gary Means, dean of Continuing Education and Public Service, at 912-681-5118.

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