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1+3=Dual Credit Program

“There comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place and the universe opens itself up for a few seconds to show you what is possible.”
—Terrance Mann, Field of Dreams

It works like that in the movies. There is a time when everything comes together, a plot comes to life, the victory is assured, the girl gets the guy, and the life of the victim is redeemed.

It is different in real life. Take for example, the development of the 1+3 Program out of the Concordia Dual Credit program. 1+3 is a branded program that allows students at Rockford Lutheran High School to build a college transcript while enrolled in high school. Students are in high school chronologically, socially, and, geographically. They live in a world of hall passes and dress codes. They can take a role in the play, earn two athletic letters, and play in the band. Still, they are truly and demonstrably enrolled at Concordia University, Nebraska (CUNE), building a college transcript.

Students earn college credit in many high schools across the country. There are many ways to earn that credit. Advanced Placement (AP) is, perhaps, the best known way to build credit. The CLEP examination program allows students to earn credit simply by taking one of the 33 tests available. Many high school students are taking online classes from a variety of colleges. Another path to credits before high school graduation is summer on the campus of the local community college.

The student receives the same kind of transcript that is created for the students on the Seward campus.The dual credit program through CUNE is entirely different. The brain child of Dr. Bernie Tonjes, this program grants adjunct faculty status to properly credentialed high school teachers. The university provides the rigorous standards worthy of the granting of college credits. The student receives the same kind of transcript that is created for the students on the Seward campus.

CUNE has built the dual credit program by providing a course syllabus and an approved text. The high school provides an instructor who holds a master’s degree in the subject area. Instructional delivery is the teacher’s responsibility.

So now you know about the dual credit program and are ready to hear how it became 1+3.

As the 21st century dawned, Mr. Don Kortze, a Seward graduate who has served at Rockford Lutheran since 1982, read with interest a promotional piece from his alma mater. The concept was simple enough: If a qualified instructor teaches the course content approved by the appropriate university department, it is in fact a college class. In the early years of the dual credit program, there were two major concerns. First was Rockford Lutheran’s ability to staff the classes with teachers who hold the proper credentials.

It is wise for Lutheran High Schools to fund the pursuit of a master’s degree for their talented teachers. A commitment to teach in the program as a repayment for the tuition assistance can help us to retain top talent.Hard-working Lutheran teachers often arrive at their first call with a degree from one of our Concordias or other teacher education program full of enthusiasm and ready to change the world. Naturally, we need them to coach, drive the bus, be freshman class adviser, and teach 120 students with four preps. After a time, when the young teacher is ready for an advanced degree, they need to make some decisions. Let’s examine a short list: state school or a Concordia, online or on campus, intensive one year and done or summers and a couple of cohort classes while teaching a full load. And the most important question of all: Pursue a master’s either in a subject area or a leadership track. The dual credit program is dependent on teachers holding a master’s in their subject area. It is wise for Lutheran High Schools to fund the pursuit of a master’s degree for their talented teachers. A commitment to teach in the program as a repayment for the tuition assistance can help us to retain top talent. Of course, another way to staff the dual credit classes is to hire experienced teachers, perhaps even those who have retired from local public schools.

The second concern for Rockford Lutheran was a common misunderstanding of the significant differences between AP and dual credit. The AP brand is strong. For many parents and students, AP is the only college credit program that appears on their radar. Too often, questions arise about credit from a Concordia. Students across the country sing the praises of AP; few know the true value of a transcript from an accredited, church-related institution.

1+3 began to take shape in 2016. CUNE worked hard with the Illinois State Board for Higher Education to renew their authorization to offer classes in Illinois. The magic kicked in when Don Kortze began to write articulation agreements for the most popular colleges and universities attended by our graduates. Mr. Kortze worked to align the Concordia course description with the catalogue of the receiving school. Popular universities signed agreements that the CUNE class was equivalent to a local class and even provided the course catalogue number. This created an invaluable level of creditability. Not every school accepts AP credit because AP credits depend on high test scores. Dual credit, however, is accepted by countless universities.

Our 2017 valedictorian brought 30 credits with her to Valparaiso University this fall.The power of the 1+3 program was institutionalized when our 2017 valedictorian brought 30 credits with her to Valparaiso University this fall. The benefits became obvious: a full year of credit accelerates graduation. Should the student change majors, this transcript provides flexibility. 1+3 Gen Eds allow a student to get to classes in their major more quickly. And here is the major unshakeable truth: The savings realized for the fulfillment of one year of education at Valpo is more than $50,000. 1+3 provides a fantastic return on investment.

Additional 1+3 benefits include the following:

I am a product of Lutheran education from grade 7 through every college class on my transcript. I see in the  1+3 program the great fulfillment of the promise provided by a church committed to education. I see a commitment to work together to provide options for our students and a testimony to the quality relationships that make us a unified body.

I encourage you to consider investigating, adopting, and growing a 1+ 3 program in your school. We at Rockford Lutheran stand ready to help you open this opportunity to your students. We can provide you with the “Instant 1+3” that will benefit any student enrolled today or in the future in the Concordia dual credit program. This is a true realization of the power of the Lutheran system of education.

The “cosmic tumblers” have come together to create this 1+3 program. Not in a flash, but in the fullness of time and with the hard work of Lutheran educators across the country.

Don Gillingham is the executive director of Rockford Lutheran School in Rockford, Ill.