Putnam County School District

Updated May 15, 2019

Increasing dual enrollment opportunities

Cookeville, Tennessee

During the 2009–10 school year, Upperman High School in rural Putnam County, Tennessee, transformed their online credit recovery program into the VITAL Program: Virtual Instruction To Accentuate Learning, with a goal of developing “Future Ready” students. The program began with four high school students. The school’s decision to start small was intentional; they wanted to learn as they grew in an organic way, taking the time to reflect and giving them the space to continually assess opportunities to build a solid foundation to support meaningful program growth. They purposefully selected teachers who were comfortable using technology for learning and known for building strong relationships with students. They borrowed ideas from partner digital learning providers to organize and structure the program. Originally launched as a program for high school juniors and seniors, the program expanded to high school sophomores by offering high school credit courses to middle school students who were ready for next-level hybrid math and science courses.

“Enrollment in the VITAL program grew quickly, largely from word-of-mouth from students and families that experienced learning success,” says Sam Brooks, Personalized Learning Supervisor. By spring 2010, enrollment grew to 74 enrollments. Putnam County added more schools and expanded programs in the 2010–11 academic year, resulting in 150 enrollments. By 2012, VITAL expanded district-wide, and two more high schools were added, which grew the enrollment by an average of 100 students per year. Fast forward to 2018–19, an estimated 800 students are enrolled in VITAL. The outcome of VITAL has been the opportunity to create truly individualized learning paths for K–12 students who need it.

Over time, the opportunities for students to finish high school courses earlier enabled them to take dual enrollment courses starting in their sophomore year of high school. To expand this dual enrollment part of the program, Putnam County Labs are facilitated by a learning coach, and some of the dual enrollment courses are taught by high school teachers while others are taught by professors from local community and technical colleges, including Volunteer State Community College, Tennessee College of Applied Technologies, and Tennessee Tech. Courses are offered online, face-to-face, or blended depending on the school. Thanks to these partnerships, students can now graduate from high school with their Associates Degree (AA) and industry certifications in a variety of areas, including Health Sciences, Information Technology, and Engineering.

Funding through a state higher education grant covers costs for two dual credit courses if a student meets academic qualifications. If a student is interested in a third course, the grant pays $200 of the total $498 cost of the course. As the program continued to gain steam, Volunteer State Community College (VSCC) offered to pick up the remaining cost of the third course as well as cover the bill of the fourth course if the student chose to enroll in VSCC. Some schools offered less expensive tuition per course, and access to the Hope Scholarship is another option for some students. Families pay the cost of additional dual enrollment courses not covered by the various financial assistance programs. These collaborative partnerships have built a clear and supportive path for students who want to be Future Ready.

This profile was developed through correspondence with Sam Brooks of Putnam County School District.

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