GUEST COLUMN:
Questions about CU Gold
By Jean Cross, Ph.D.

       As a former high school administrator and consultant for gifted education, I challenge the positions of Jim Keating and Susan Humphrey in their February press coverage in the Westside Pioneer - that Coronado High School students have discovered in CU Succeed Gold Program the best post-secondary education option in the country right along with a “cure” for seniorities and the “best buy” for college credits. Caveat Emptor, parents and students.
       I see no mention of the Advanced Placement Program administered by College Board or the College Level Examination Program (CLEP). These programs have earned world-wide credibility for their scholarship and rigor. Coronado students and parents need to understand the differences between a score of “5” on an Advanced Placement Test and a B on a CU Gold class when the transcript is submitted to a selective college or graduate school.
       CU Gold may be a good option for some students, but with 1,250 credit hours earned by CHS students just this year, what effect does Keating's blockbusting for CU Gold have on other academic programs? How many scholars at CHS took AP classes, how many sat for the exam, how many scored “3” or above in the exam? How many students took the PSAT (as sophomores), how many National Merit semifinalists come out of CHS each year? Finalists? Merit scholars?
       The CU Gold web site has small print indicating some universities do not accept the CU Gold credits for requirements in some degree programs, and so students are advised to consult with their chosen colleges prior to enrolling in the classes; the web site also indicates that some universities do not accept course work for which the student receives both high school and college credit (otherwise known as “double dipping”). Do students who leave CHS thinking they've saved a year's tuition find that to be true? I question whether juniors even know for sure what college they will attend.
       The article suggests that rushing for freshman year credits in high school is a good thing. Does this mean the student wants to receive the baccalaureate degree in three years, has more time to “slack” on a four-year degree, or is truly ready with all the academic pre-requisites to compete academically with college sophomores? Many students need a freshman year to acclimate to the academic rigor of the university and take needed pre-requisite classes for their programs.
       Let's focus on the stipends. The web site indicates that CU Gold Program returns to the principal $8.00 for every credit hour enrolled. According to Keating's numbers (1250 credit hours), that means $10,000 has been returned to the principal just this year. Hugill, one of the eight CU Gold teachers, says he makes a small stipend, but not that much.
       And who pays for Keating as “director” of this program in just one of five high schools? Does he qualify to teach one of these classes? What is the “rest of the program” for gifted and talented students at Coronado that he purports to lead? What portion of the administrative payback does he receive? I hope there are other principals committed to academic rigor and academic achievement for the sake of learning and willing to differentiate among all the academically rigorous programs for advanced learners.
       The evaluation of the Keating-Humphrey program is missing. As parent and educator, I want to see the data that are being collected to determine if this program truly is achieving its goals. The three-year mark is time to share the “evidence,” not just the rah-rah of a quick and cheap way to acquire college credit that may or may not make a whit of difference in college selection, retention, placement, academic achievement, and well being of our high school students, particularly those who require special provisions in their education planning because of their outstanding abilities and talents (reference to Colorado definition of the gifted and talented learner).
       Thank you, Colorado College, for not allowing yourself to “be won over” by Keating's elixir for scholarship. Thank you for maintaining your academic integrity until a time when you have more than just a syllabus on file to ensure that each and every CC credit stands for what you think it should.
      
       (All quotations are taken from Westside Pioneer, Feb. 12.)