Spectrum students take college courses without leaving their high school campus
by Joni Astrup
When Scot Pfleghaar graduates from Spectrum High School this spring, he will have completed nearly two years of college.
And he never had to leave Spectrum to do it.
Pfleghaar took advantage of Spectrum’s College in the Schools (CIS) program.
The program is a partnership between Spectrum, a public charter school located at 17796 Industrial Circle in Elk River, and Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids.
Seven teachers at Spectrum are qualified to teach some of the exact courses that are taught at Anoka-Ramsey, but they teach them at Spectrum through the CIS program. All of the Spectrum teachers who teach CIS classes have a master’s degree, according to Linette Holum, who works in admissions and guidance support at Spectrum.
“The big appeal for CIS classes is you don’t leave the campus of your high school so you do get to be with your high school friends still, and with the teachers,” said Pfleghaar, the son of Steve and Terry Pfleghaar of Elk River.
Plus, he figures the college credits he will have earned in high school at no cost would have cost $19,000 to $26,000 if he were a student at the University of Minnesota.
Spectrum’s CIS program began in the 2009–2010 school year with three classes. Ten CIS classes are offered this year including Spanish as well as math, science, literature and other classes. In total, 14 CIS classes are available at Spectrum, but not every class is offered every year, according to Holum and Brenda Schulze, who works in community development and partnership for Spectrum.
Additional college classes are available online or via interactive TV, including a calculus class where college credit is earned from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.
About 40 Spectrum students are participating in the CIS program. While there is no cost for students to take CIS classes, an identical three-credit class at Anoka-Ramsey costs about $500, Holum said.
Students who take enough CIS classes can graduate with enough credits to apply for an associate of arts degree from Anoka-Ramsey, she said.
“It’s just an exciting opportunity for our kids,” Holum said.
Spectrum’s CIS program dovetails with the school’s three-dimensional mission statement which includes college preparatory curriculum, a technology-rich environment and community-based outreach.
‘These credits are so valuable,’ student says
Pfleghaar took CIS speech communication fall semester and is taking CIS mass communications, astronomy and statistics this semester, as well as an online history class through the University of Minnesota-Crookston.
Last year, he said he took enough CIS classes at Spectrum to earn 26 college credits. That’s just four credits short of a full year of college.
He was drawn to CIS because he was looking for a meaningful educational experience, and something that would impact him long-term.
“I took a few CIS classes and it really felt like I was getting somewhere with my education because these credits are so valuable,” he said.
After high school he plans to attend Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis to pursue a degree in biblical and theological studies. He would like to do missions work through a nonprofit organization.
Alyssa Spofford, a junior at Spectrum, is also participating in the CIS program. She took CIS speech communication, Spanish and sociology fall semester. This semester she is taking CIS mass communications and statistics as well as an online class.
Spofford, the daughter of Craig and Kara Spofford of Zimmerman, would like to be close to finishing her associate of arts degree by the time she graduates from high school in 2014. She hopes to go to Northwestern College in Roseville. She would like to get to double major in nonprofit business and interdisciplinary studies concentrating on music, speaking and children and family ministry. Her goal is to help run Christian camps for children.
Spofford likes the challenge that CIS classes offer.
“It’s a chance to see what I can do and get a little bit of a head start in college so I can start working on my major earlier,” she said. Taking college-level classes in high school is definitely possible if you manage your time right, she said.
Like Pfleghaar, Spofford likes that she is able to take college classes without leaving her high school.
“You still get to be a high schooler while taking college classes,” she said. “It’s not like you’re trying to grow up too fast by going to college way early. We’re never going to be this age again. Why grow up too fast?”
PSEO offers college credit in high school
The CIS program is possible because of Minnesota’s Post Secondary Enrollment Option, or PSEO.
Students qualify for PSEO when they are in the top third of their class as juniors, or in the top half of their class as seniors, Holum said. New legislation also allows freshmen and sophomores in the top 10 percent of their class to participate in PSEO — under the guidelines of the college.
Students who meet those criteria can take an Accuplacer test, and if they get a qualifying score can go into Spectrum’s CIS program, Holum said. There also are a few other ways to enter the program, like a qualifying ACT score.
Once in CIS Spectrum students are also concurrently enrolled at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.