Small school delivers in a big way

Joe Nathan
Education Columnist

They call it “4 for 2” and I call it brilliant. “They” are Long Prairie/Grey Eagle High School Principal Paul Weinzierl, and Central Lakes College President Larry Lundblad.

Their program saves students and families $20 to $30,000, by allowing high school students, taking classes in their high school, to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and a two-year, Associate Arts degree. Over the last two years, 30 students have done this. About two thirds of approximately 180 juniors and seniors have earned some college credit.

Weinzierl explained that the name comes from the fact students can earn both a four-year high school and two-year college degree. Students are able to start taking a college level course in 10th grade (Advanced Placement Biology). Many students in the 4 for 2 program started with this class.

Long Prairie/Grey Eagle offers college level vocational courses on its campus, such as welding.

The  “4 for 2” began four years ago when a student discussed taking advanced courses on a college campus. Weinzierl  thought this would be “cumbersome,” and also hoped that the school could develop a program encouraging students to stay in the high school, rather than participate in Post Secondary Enrollment Options.

Moreover, “the nearest college is about an hour away, so students taking PSEO would be taking not only funds, but also their leadership skills. “

For about a year, Central Lakes trained high school faculty members from Long Prairie/Grey Eagle so they could offer some college level courses.

Larry Lundblad, Central Lakes president said the high school “had the vision. I applaud them. We were glad to help.”

Though other nearby high schools have not asked for an identical program, Central Lakes has worked with a number of others to develop College in the Schools courses — courses taught through an “Instructional Television” consortium, and post secondary options courses on campus. Lundblad reports that about 45 area high school students earned AA degrees last year, along with students who took some classes.

Brenda Cassellius, Minnesota Commissioner of Education, gave the commencement address at Long Prairie /Grey Eagle this year. “This is the way of the future. LPGE is showing us all that it is possible….this kind of innovation…will transform how we think about college and high school and make grades 11-14 much more relevant, fluid and integrated,” she said.

Joe Nathan, a former Minnesota public school teacher and administrator, directs the Center for School Change.  Reactions welcome, [email protected]