Education Research into Dual Credit Equity Essay

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Problem Statement

Dual credit (dual enrolment) programs have met with tremendous success in the state of Hawaii and elsewhere. These programs, which include GEAR UP, Running Start, and Early College, allow students at high school level to attain college credit, thereby easing the financial burden they will face in university. Moreover, the dual credit programs have also increased college enrollment rates among Hawaii students (Inefuku, 2017). Not only do Dual Credit programs improve college readiness and admission rates, they also help prepare students for a more successful college career with higher rates of graduation and thus, improved overall educational and career outcomes. While Dual Credit programs are designed for all students, they can be of particular help to disadvantaged and underserved populations. The problem is that not all underrepresented students have access to Dual Credit programs, and not all Dual Credit programs are adaptable to suit English language learners.


This research is motivated by several interrelated issues, all of which will help improve overall accountability and ethical integrity in education. Accountability is a primary rationale for this research. The United States Department of Education (2017) claims that Dual Credit programs “are designed to boost college access and degree attainment, especially for students typically underrepresented in higher education,” (p. 1). If students who are typically underrepresented in higher education—such as English language learners and economically disadvantaged students—are not benefitting enough from Dual Credit programs, then educators have a professional and ethical obligation to review how those programs are designed, how they are promoted, and how students and their parents perceive their accessibility, efficacy, and applicability to their own needs.

Furthermore, the first principle in the State of Hawaii’s Teacher Standards Board (2018) Code of Ethics is responsibility to the profession. Responsibility to the profession means taking responsibility, actively participating in research that will positively impact the profession and help educators reach their goals in helping students. Also, the second principle in the Teacher Standards Board (2018) Code of Ethics specifically mentions the ethical importance of conducting education research to inform practice.

The second reason for this research is related to social justice and equity. Teachers have a responsibility to their students and to the profession as a whole, to “understand students’ educational, academic, personal and social needs,” (State of Hawai’i, Hawai’i Teacher Standards Board, 2018, III.11). Research in education should be designed with social justice aims in mind, helping students who are economically disadvantaged or who are underrepresented in Dual Credit programs to achieve their goals.

Finally, it is also important to mention finances as part of the research rationale. Dual Credit programs should be constructed with maximum cost effectiveness in mind, to avoid wastefulness in limited state education budgets. If there are inefficiencies in service delivery, then educators have an obligation to improve the nature of special programs like Dual Credit so that they maximize value.

With a special focus on English Language Learners (ELLs), new immigrants, and economically disadvantaged students, this research will help the Hawaii State Board of Education (2018) fulfill its mission to “to promote excellence and equity in Hawaii's public schools and enable all students to meet their own unique and varied potentials,” (p. 1).

Review of Literature

A review of literature reveals several themes related to how well Dual Credit programs serve Hawaii students. Themes that emerge in the literature include financial constraints, limitations on how well the Dual Credit programs are being promoted to underserved students, and also cultural/linguistic barriers.

Promoting Dual Credit

For Dual Credit programs to be effective, students have to learn about them. Formal points of access to Dual Credit include teachers and school counselors, while informal points of access include hearing about the programs from peers and other parents.

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New immigrants, ELLs, and economically disadvantaged students might not learn about Dual Credit programs from either formal or informal sources. For example, research shows that school counselors in the State of Hawaii have ““relied on students to self-identify” as interested in Running Start (Osumi, 2010, p. viii). Students who do not yet know about Running Start and other Dual Credit programs cannot self-identify. The research reveals that one of the most important methods of improving the equitability of Dual Credit is by promoting these programs more effectively. Also, admissions criteria must be taken into account and possibly changed to reflect the differential needs of students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds or students who are ELLS. Standardized tests can especially disadvantage ELLs. Thankfully, the research shows that the state requires multiple types of admissions assessment methods for entry to Dual Credit (Hodara & Wang, 2015). However, educators and school counselors need to play a more active role in reaching out to ELLs and their families as well as to economically disadvantaged students and their families.


The two main Dual Credit programs in Hawaii include Early College and Running Start. Running Start is a “a partnership between the Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) and University of Hawai‘i (UH) system that allows students to take college courses and earn college credit,” (Hodara & Wang, 2015, p. 1). With Running Start, the classes are taught by college professors on college campuses, which is totally unlike Advanced Placement (AP) and other high school-based dual credit schemes. As advantageous as Running Start may be for increasing social, psychological, and academic readiness for college, the student is often responsible for paying for the Dual Credit courses. Running Start is therefore only really accessible to families of means.

Research has more recently revealed methods by which the state is improving equitability. In 2007, the Hawaii legislature officially recognized that its underserved communities were not participating in dual enrollment/dual credit courses due to “perceived financial barriers,” (Osumi, 2010, p. 13). To mitigate the problems with financial accessibility, the government of Hawaii has received federal funding for a scholarship program called Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). However, there is little research detailing the effectiveness of GEAR UP for specific populations like ELLs, new immigrants, or the economically disadvantaged. However, GEAR UP “supports low-income students’ participation in the Running Start dual credit program by providing support for tuition and books,” (“Running Start,” n.d.). These provisions are great if, and only if, target populations are aware GEAR UP exists. Research does show GEAR UP admissions policies favor low-income students, who may be selected by their already participating in other needs-based programs like the National School Lunch Program, the Supplemental Assistance for Needy Families (SNAP), or the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program (“Running Start,” n.d.).

Another Dual Credit program known as Early College/Early Admissions involves courses that are taught at the student’s high school, making these classes more financially accessible than the Running Start programs (Dual Credit, 2017). The most notable state policy that supports dual credit programs directly is senate bill SB374, which “aims to broaden access and participation in all forms of dual credit,” (Hodara & Wang, 2015, p. 1). What SB734 effectively did was to open dual enrollment to a wide range of students previously excluded, including younger students (high school freshman), as well as home-schooled students. However,….....

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Dual Credit (2017). Website:

Gewertz, C. (2017). Dual credit: race and income gaps are getting wider, study finds. Education Week, Aug 29, 2017.

Halagao, P.E. (n.d.). Exposing K–12 Filipino Achievement Gaps and Opportunities in Hawai‘i Public Schools. Educational Perspectives 48(1-2):

Hawaii Department of Education (2017). School quality survey statewide summary report.

“Hawaii 'dual credit' high schoolers more likely to go to college,” (2016). Hawaii News Now. 6 Sept 2016,

Hodara, M. & Wang, C. (2015). Expanding Opportunities to Earn College Credit at Rural Title I High Schools in Hawai’i: A Case Study of Dual-Credit Programs. Education Northwest.

Inefuku, T. (2017). Report shows Hawaii high school students increasingly ready for college. KHON2

Osumi, J.M. (2010). The influence of counselors and high school organization on the selection of participants for a dual credit program. Dissertation for University of Southern California.

“Running Start,” (n.d.).

School Quality Survey (n.d.).

State of Hawaii Board of Education (2018). About the Board of Education.

State of Hawai’i, Hawai’i Teacher Standards Board (2018). Code of ethics.

Takayama, B. (2008). Academic Achievement Across School Types in Hawaii: Outcomes for Hawaiian and Non-Hawaiian Students in Conventional Public Schools, Western Focused Charters, and Hawaiian Language and Culture-Based Schools. Hulili 5(2008):

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