Continuing Education

Riverside Prep high school students earn college credit thanks to Extended Education initiative

March 06, 2018 by Cindy O'Dell
Riverside Prep

Riverside Prep students work on their Brandman courses. Photo courtesy of Oro Grande School District.

Brandman University’s School of Extended Education has a reputation for providing quality, customized training to corporations and organizations. Now it’s making some of those college-level courses available to high school students.

Oro Grande School District’s Riverside Prep High School is the second “dual credit” program created in conjunction with Extended Education and the first at a public high school. The program was recently highlighted in an article in the Victorville Daily Press.

Reagan Forlenzo, director of Corporate Training, Business and Technology Programs for Extended Education, called it a win-win situation. Students reap the benefit of true college-level coursework and instruction. Brandman builds a new client base and income stream while introducing potential students to a Brandman education.

Helping guide the program from the school district’s end is Minda Stackelhouse, a 2014 graduate of Brandman’s Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership program and executive director of Oro Grande School District’s Administrative Services. She also earned her master’s in teaching and administrative credential at Brandman.

Reagan Forlenzo
Reagan Forlenzo, director of Corporate Training, Business and Technology for the School of Extended Education, is the Brandman liaison for the high school program.

“This is a game changer for a lot of kids,” said Stackelhouse. It doesn’t just provide them credit at both the high school and college level but also helps them overcome fears they might have about being ready for higher education. “This experience sets the tone for students who might not have considered themselves able to go to college,” she said.

The program differs from Advanced Placement courses, which also provide college credit to students if they pass a one-time test after a yearlong class. In the dual credit program, students are taught online by Brandman adjunct faculty members, with a high school teacher present to help facilitate.

Learning from the first dual credit program at Excelsior Charter School, the Riverside Prep program was expanded to 16 weeks from Brandman’s usual eight-week sessions. The first four weeks are spent learning about how the program works followed by 12 weeks of instruction.

“We realized students got lost in two ways (at Excelsior). They didn’t know how to navigate Brandman (accessing the library, forwarding email, working in Blackboard) and they didn’t know how to write at a university level in APA style,” said Forlenzo. Working with Brandman’s Center for Instructional Innovation (CII), Extended Education created a two-part orientation, which includes Brandman-specific information and college success strategies.

The orientation proved so successful that Forlenzo now uses it with her corporate clients in their training programs.

Dual credit programs have existed since a legislative initiative in 2016 called the College and Career Pathways Act, many of them in conjunction with community colleges. The added benefits of Brandman’s program, said Forlenzo, are the on-site facilitator and cohort model. The only students in the classes are the ones at Riverside Prep. For the fall session, 14 juniors completed a course in U.S. history covering reconstruction to present day and 27 seniors took Introduction to Political Science. For spring, juniors are taking sociology and seniors are studying macroeconomics.

Extended Education chose the courses and the faculty members with care. “We wanted to make sure they were courses that would be accepted for transfer at most universities and that the faculty members understood mindset of younger students,” said Forlenzo.

That combination has led to a high success rate for the students with more than 90 percent of the class earning college credit with grades of A or B. Most AP classes are fortunate if 30 percent of the students pass with a high enough grade to earn college credit, said Stackelhouse.

Stackelhouse can also speak to the program from a parent’s perspective. Her daughter, now in her first year at UC Santa Barbara but with sophomore standing, was a student in dual credit classes at Excelsior.  She’s convinced that it isn’t just highly motivated students such as her daughter who will benefit. “It really does cross socio-economic lines,” said Stackelhouse.

“We’re fully committed (in the Oro Grande School District). We’re thrilled with what our kids are doing and with Brandman. Much of the credit needs to be given to our board and our superintendent. The program isn’t cheap. It’s an ethical and financial commitment, and they take it seriously,” she said.

As does Extended Education’s Forlenzo. “The school district is the one who is paying so we really treat it like any other client wanting a specific kind of training.” That kind of support and ongoing evaluation of how well the program is working allows them to fine tune what they offer.

“It’s been a great experience,” said Forlenzo.  

Students at Riverside Prep agree. In their evaluation of their fall classes, more than 90 percent agreed that the would recommend the course and the instructor to another student.  In anonymous comments on the course, they praised the discussion boards for helping them learn more about other students’ ideas and for helping them shape their own opinions.

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