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Digging into dual credit successes

As the principal at Mitchell High School, Joe Childs works in education on a daily basis. And after getting a doctorate degree in education, he's putting the findings and research to work at MHS. His doctoral dissertation and research for a docto...

Mitchell High School Principal Dr. Joe Childs stands for a photo on Tuesday morning in the school hallway. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Mitchell High School Principal Dr. Joe Childs stands for a photo on Tuesday morning in the school hallway. (Matt Gade / Republic)

As the principal at Mitchell High School, Joe Childs works in education on a daily basis.

And after getting a doctorate degree in education, he's putting the findings and research to work at MHS. His doctoral dissertation and research for a doctorate in Educational Leadership looked at three major components to dual-credit study in high school.

"My findings have proven that Mitchell is on track. That what we offer our students in way of education is beneficial to them, especially for those that are interested in postsecondary education. There is a positive correlation between online dual credit grades and sequential coursework. If a student takes a dual credit class in high school, they will be equally successful in college," Childs said.

In short, the research showed dual-credit students perform better in the ACT standardized test used for college admission, have an overall better chance of completing degree-seeking coursework and will be better suited for college coursework by getting involved in dual credit programs during their high school years.

For the 2016-17 school year, Mitchell had 175 students taking 376 dual-credit classes, including 139 offered off-campus and 239 in the high school building, according to the Mitchell School District's annual report card.

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Childs has always been a believer in giving kids opportunities and has worked as a teacher and principal in the Mitchell School District since 2006. He took on his current role as the MHS principal in 2012. A conversation he had in his first year at MHS with one of his students stuck with Childs until this day.

"The student said he did not want to take a particular class for a third time, which was his only choice offered by the school at that time," Childs recalled. "That got me thinking; in the past six years we have gone from offering a handful of dual credit courses at the high school to hundreds," Childs said.

Students at MHS can sign up for dual credit coursework at Mitchell Technical Institute, Dakota Wesleyan University or participate in the Rising Scholars program through Northern State University in Aberdeen. These credit courses are available at a reduced cost of $50 per credit hour, an enormous discount compared to college prices.

Childs, a lifelong learner by his own account, decided to earn his specialist degree in education in 2015 and completed his doctoral defense in October 2017. The doctoral part of his degree at the University of South Dakota only took him four months.

"There are really two ways to go through the doctoral program. You can start the doctoral program after the master's degree, with a certain number of coursework credits and the dissertation, or you can do the specialist degree and then in second application go through the doctorate," Childs said. "The benefit of going through the specialist degree first is, that if you decide you do not like the coursework, you can finish and still have a specialist degree."

For him there was no better way showing his students that education is important than setting a good example by continuing his own degree work.

"I guess it's obvious that I am intrigued by education, so pursuing my doctorate just began as a way to continue with renewal credits. In other words, if I am going to be leading a school or school district, then I think I need to be showing our students that education is important," Childs said.

While sticking his nose into books and online class courses at the MHS library, he bonded with the students over their educational commonalities.

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"I was on some of the same websites that our students from the dual-credit program use and made it a habit to go and speak with them about workarounds that I found and little nifty things. So, we ended up teaching each other," Childs said.

His past experience in teaching, education and administration were instrumental in reaching his goals, but he believes the most important support he received came from his wife, Mindy.

"(She) endured as much or more than I did during this time. Her workload increased a good deal because I was not offering the same amount of support to the family that I had in the past," Childs said.

Now with more time on his hands, Childs wants to continue to write, read for pleasure and is currently working with a person in Maine, who is publishing a few books on the idea of being better connected with students and people you work with.

Getting to better understand his students and what their purposes and interests are will continue to be on the front burner for this educator, who firmly believes in "the power of education and the power of the present."

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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