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Double Duty

Some high schools serve as sites for afternoon and evening college courses. The classes are popular because students can get both high school and college credit.

April 04, 2001|STEPHANIE STASSEL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Eager to start his college career, 11th-grade student Robin Pottukalam had to look no further than his own high school campus.

On Thursday evenings, the Chatsworth High School junior returns to school to take yet another class, this one a finance course offered through Pierce College.

Professor Jerry Clebanoff, a portfolio manager dressed in a suit and tie straight from his downtown Los Angeles office, discusses the global economy's effect on the stock market with a group of 20 attentive students, including some old enough to be Pottukalam's grandparents.

The 16-year-old, who doesn't yet drive, admits he wouldn't be taking his first college course if he had to go 4 1/2 miles to Pierce College in Woodland Hills.

"It's too far away," he said. "This is convenient and close to my house."

The demand for after-school and evening college courses taught on high school campuses is on the rise.

All of the Los Angeles Community College District's nine colleges, with the exception of Los Angeles Southwest College, are offering such courses this spring.

Los Angeles City College has scheduled 14 classes--such as psychology, English and administration of justice--on seven high school campuses this spring through its City Prep program, which enrolls 389 students.

And West Los Angeles College's Jump Start program enrolls 475, with 20 classes at 11 high schools.

At Chatsworth High, Pottukalam will not only receive college credit for the course if he passes, he will also get a year's worth of high school credit for the course.

The $11 per unit community college fees are waived for high school students, who pay only for books.

Since Pierce College hired someone to promote its off-campus program, offerings have increased from 19 classes at six high schools last fall to 36 classes at nine high schools this spring. Plans are underway to offer more than 80 classes in the fall.

"I am confident it will expand and demand will get even bigger," said Sam Mayo, a former high school teacher and college administrator who came out of retirement to run Pierce's outreach program. "We get the [enrollment], the high schools get quality college professors without having to pay for them and the students get both high school and college credit."

Not everyone likes the idea. Elenna Turner, a college counselor at El Camino Real High School, has noticed some students taking college classes after school at El Camino Real--or on the Pierce College campus--to avoid certain high school Advanced Placement instructors.

Students who take high school Advanced Placement courses can receive college credit for them if they pass a test.

A new Los Angeles Unified School District policy lays out which community college courses can be substituted for high school classes, including Advanced Placement classes. For instance, Turner said, students can receive AP government credit for taking a political science college course.

"I think down the line, we might be doing some teachers out of their jobs," she said. "I can see where some kids at some schools need these classes because they aren't offered, but at our school it could be deadly."

As a result, she has asked Pierce College to refrain from bringing courses to El Camino Real High that students can substitute for Advanced Placement classes, and instead offer courses that the high school doesn't provide.

High schools with a plentiful Advanced Placement program may need to offer a "special take" on the subject to entice students to take the AP class over the community college course, according to school board member Valerie Fields, who supported the new district policy.

"If they are bleeding out students to the college courses, [high schools] can change their AP program to make it more attractive," Fields said in an interview.

Penny Sommers, a district official who helped write the policy, said its purpose is to establish guidelines that high school counselors can follow when deciding whether to allow a student to take a particular college course.

"[The policy] wasn't written so that students could avoid some teachers," she said.

At Chatsworth High School, colleges are allowed to offer only classes that aren't part of the usual high school day.

"We don't want to impinge on the classes that we offer. If they were to offer government or history, then we'd be hurting our program," said Arlene Anderson, assistant principal in charge of counseling.

An official with Santa Monica College said that students are given a chance to explore subjects that might not be offered at their high school.

Santa Monica College's program has blossomed since it began in spring 1998. It now offers 50 classes at 23 schools, from Long Beach to the San Fernando Valley, involving 1,409 students.

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