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High school students and families are not getting accurate information on dual-credit opportunities as required by state law, a new study shows.

The St. Paul-based Center for School Change, which has been advocating for dual-credit courses for more than 30 years, released a report Friday that found 97% of the 95 Minnesota school districts studied failed to provide current information about the Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program. For example, high schools must inform low-income students that they are eligible for transportation reimbursement and must allow students to use school computers to take PSEO courses online. It's a "massive" equity issue, the center said.

PSEO is the most common example of dual-credit programs available to all students taking college-level courses for free while in high school and earning college credit from participating universities and colleges. But the program, which has tuition-saving benefits and helps boost students' confidence, has been especially valuable to low-income students, students of color and students who are first in their family to attend college. The report cites research showing that dual credit can help close major achievement gaps between Minnesota's student groups in high school and beyond.

This year's study of 95 school districts and charter schools found that 92 were not providing the latest information on their websites as required by law.

The report, which examines grade weighting for the first time, shows that a majority of the schools that weight grades do not factor in PSEO courses. Of the 38 districts that weight grades, only nine weight PSEO. Meanwhile, a quarter of the 40% of the schools that weight grades fail to weight some college-level courses offered in high schools, the report shows. The center said that practice can weigh down students' GPA and lower their chances of gaining college admission and getting scholarships.

Joe Nathan, the center's director, said many high schools discourage students from taking PSEO courses because they worry they will lose the revenue students generate.

"I get that," he said. "But the No. 1 issue is supposed to be what's in the best interests of the students."

The report calls on the Minnesota Department of Education to take steps to improve compliance issues. Nathan said he shared the findings of the report with state education leaders, including Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker on Monday. The Minnesota Department of Education, he said, has since revised the PSEO guidance on its website to include the 2019 legislative amendments that require school districts and charters to share current information with families and students in grades 8-11 by March 1, or three weeks before registering for courses.

The Department of Education has also agreed to push school districts and charter schools to comply with the law and post "up-to-date" information on their websites and in their materials, Nathan said.

In the report, the center recommends that school districts and charters face financial consequences if they fail to comply by November.

Ricker said state education officials have already taken action to share the new 2019 legislation with districts and they plan to send more communications to help districts share PSEO options with students before registration deadlines pass.

"All students, of every race and in every ZIP code, deserve the opportunity to take challenging and rigorous courses throughout their education," Ricker said in a statement.

Faiza Mahamud • 612-673-4203