Parkland reaches out to area high schools
TOLONO – Unity High School was one of the first stops on Parkland College's "listening tour," and representatives from the two schools had plenty to talk about.
Unity Principal Phil Morrison said his school already offers calculus students high school credit and credit at the community college.
"We want to provide more opportunities for dual credit," Morrison said. "That was issue one. Issue two was articulation for our students, making sure they can transfer easily. We really appreciate the fact that Parkland's willing to work with us."
The college's representatives visited Unity and three other area high schools this year to talk about how the community college can help them prepare their students for a smooth transition to college level work, said Amy Penne, director of developmental composition for the English and Critical Studies department at Parkland.
The "listening tour" was part of statewide efforts to integrate curriculum from pre-kindergarten through college so students move seamlessly through the education system.
"The state's working on a lot of things including teacher training at the University of Illinois and technology integration," Penne said. "Our effort is very hands on, grass-roots. We partner with schools to find out what they want us to do."
"We visit schools to find out about their challenges, issues and strengths and to figure out what we can do to connect with them, especially in English and math," said Karen Morgan, operations manager for the English department.
Morgan, Penne and other faculty members visited Unity, Urbana High School, Mahomet-Seymour High School and Cissna Park High School to talk to administrators and teachers about ways they could all cooperate.
"For example, there are new math requirements in the schools, and we need to know what they mean," she said. "This is also about 'Here's what we do.' In high school, students spend five or six weeks reading a novel. At Parkland, they might spend a week and a half."
"Teachers have told us about their students' challenges, especially with reading, writing and organizational skills," Morgan said. "They'd also like to have more parental support."
Penne and Morgan plan to put together information for schools to give to students and parents. They're also offering Parkland entrance exams to high school teachers so they can give them to their juniors.
"It gives them more information about where they are," Penne said. "We hear from teachers that results help students make decisions about what they still need to take for college entrance."
"Also, if a student does well on the test, it might make them think about college," Morgan said.
Morrison said Parkland representatives who visited Unity included someone who teaches in each of the basic academic areas.
He and Parkland representatives talked about expanding cooperation. Unity sends some students to Parkland every year to take nursing and automotive classes, but Morrison wants to start three more academic dual credit classes, one in English next year, one in anatomy and physiology the following year and one in science the year after that. All would be taught on the Unity campus by Unity teachers.
"Our hope is our students will graduate with a semester or more of Parkland credits," he said.
Other area high school administrators said they appreciate Parkland's efforts at communication.
"It's good for teachers to sit down with representatives for higher education to get a better idea what to prepare their students for," said Mahomet-Seymour Assistant Principal Marty Williams. "Teachers need to give their students a heads-up about what's coming."
"I appreciate what they do," said Jeff Maurer, principal of Cissna Park High School where the Parkland team visited during a teachers' institute day. "Parkland is here a lot, and teachers think that's beneficial."