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West Kentucky earns prestigious accreditation

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

The West Kentucky Community & Technical College continues to provide a seamless transition for high school students as they move on to their next educational goal.

WKCTC is one of 11 colleges - the only one in Kentucky - to earn accreditation from the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships. The organization ensures that college courses offered in high schools are equally rigorous as those available at the sponsoring post-secondary institution, according to Dual Credit Director Lisa Stephenson.

"It validates that what we are doing on the high school level exactly matches what we do for that same course at the college level," she said.

Stephenson said the program uses identical syllabuses, qualified faculty members, and an enrollment and advising structure as at the college. The approach allows high school students to learn how expectations, content, deadlines and coursework differ on the college level.

"Dual credit classes provide a chance to jump-start a student's college career within a familiar setting," she said.

The process to earn accreditation, led by Stephenson and WKCTC Academy Director Lorry Beth Wilson, included an internal study, with documentation related to NACEP's 17 standards including student progress, faculty interactions and curriculum. WKCTC's program includes 1,400 students and 22 partners throughout the region, according to Stephenson.

School partners - including principals, teachers and district officials - were included in the study. The institutions are evaluated by peer reviewers from NACEP-accredited programs, then WKCTC officials are interviewed.

Jay Box, chancellor of the KCTCS system, said, "We are pleased that WKCTC is the first in Kentucky to obtain this high recognition and to also be the first program within the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (region to become NACEP accredited."

Hickman County Superintendent Casey Henderson emphasized the positive impact for students, who receive a personal perspective on future college life.

"Students are able to be introduced to the next path, which gets them ready for college and a future career," he said. "It increases their confidence so that next step won't be scary or intimidating."

He said many Hickman students take up to 15 hours of dual college credit while in high school. Henderson said WKCTC provides an opportunity for students in many districts and the key to their success is an individualized approach.

"WKCTC works with each student so they feel comfortable," he said. "Their focus is on individual needs over enrollment numbers."

Ashley Shelton, English teacher at WKCTC and St. Mary High School, said the accreditation reaffirms the high quality of the dual credit program for students and their parents. Shelton said the classes that she teaches in both schools are identical, which provides high school students with a collegiate outlook. She also pointed to one skill that is critical in every class: the ability to write in a clear and concise way.

Winners of the recognition include concurrent or dual-credit enrollment programs offered by 10 schools in Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington, according to Kimberly Mobley, NACEP director of communications and member services.

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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