New campaign in Michigan prioritizes family literacy

A new campaign in Flint, MI, calls for improving literacy among families in the community.  The initiative is housed at Mott Community College and was launched by the Flint and Genesee County Literacy Network, founded on the idea that literacy is both an equalizer and catalyst for improved public safety, economic growth, quality of life, and more.  Starting at the college, groups will provide tutoring and mentoring to community members, and it is anticipated that future groups will be established.  This initiative is also very important to the college because of the near 60% of students who arrive underprepared for college-level math and reading.  Administrators believe addressing family literacy issues may also impact these dev ed students.  The program is currently in the pilot phase at a local enrichment center.

Source: MLive Media Group


Community college in Oregon looks to streamlining dev ed sequences

A recent study conducted by REL Northwest found that about 73% of those who graduated high school and enrolled in a community college in Oregon took at least one developmental course.  The organization suggested that poor performance on placement tests is one reason for the high percentage of developmental course takers.  To address this issue, the Oregon Community College Association, which oversees 17 institutions, began designing changes for purposes of streamlining dev ed course sequences.

Recommended changes include combining dev ed courses to shorten sequences; new math and writing courses for non-STEM and professional/technical students, respectively; and making advising and orientation required for students in dev ed.  So far, some of these revisions have since been implemented and one college (Central Oregon Community College) has applied for a $2.5 m federal grant to help fund improvements to academic advising.  Other Oregon colleges are redesigning dev ed and using co-requisite models, and the state government recently passed  a bill to require educational entities to oversee placement in community college courses.

Source:  The Bulletin

Adopting a discourse of faith, not deficiency

Jamey Gallagher, affiliated with the Community College of Baltimore County, authored a piece that urges faculty to consider adopting a discourse of faith in students, not on students’ deficiencies.  Gallagher suggests that discourse of faith and discourse of deficiency are, indeed, in conflict with one another, but that turning to holistic pedagogies that embrace students is necessary.  Although community college and developmental students are often considered deficient, reflected in the way “underprepared” is used to describe those in dev ed, innovative approaches to delivering education encourage faculty to move beyond deficiency.  As Gallagher writes of dev ed students:

The students who end up in our developmental education classes may not understand MLA format, but they understand something deeper and richer.  They may not have trained their critical thinking faculties, but they have thought critically.

Certainly, such statements conjure images of students who,  while underprepared,  are not deficient,  but in need of assistance and deserve our faith and support.

Source: Faculty Focus

Changes at Colorado community college offer new pathways

The Adult Learning Assistance Program (ALAP) at Colorado Northwestern Community College previously housed developmental education and adult basic education, or ABE.  As students returned to the classroom this Fall, they were greeted with a new center and new pathways.  The former ALAP Center was renamed the Gateway Center and the dev ed and ABE programs were separated.  The ABE program is focusing efforts on helping students earn GEDs, recently launched an ESL program, and aims to facilitate students’ readiness for the workforce.  Meanwhile, the dev ed program strives to offer a quicker path for students to become college ready; previously, dev ed coursework could take up to two years.

Source: Craig Daily Press

Column considers core issues impacting community colleges

In a column titled “Community College Professors Often Fail at Teaching,” columnist and blogger, Jay Mathews, referenced findings from The College Fear Factor: How Students and Professors Misunderstand One Another by Dr. Rebecca Cox.  Cox’s book was the result of a five-year qualitative research study to understand core issues present in community college classrooms between faculty and students.  Findings included that faculty do not place as much importance on pedagogy and often do not communicate expectations to students.  In present day, Cox maintains that core classroom dynamics must include a reconceptualizing of pedagogy in order for the attention placed on learning outcomes and dev ed to be meaningful.  Cox is currently assistant professor at Simon Fraser University.

Source: The Washington Post

Lone Star College uses predictive analytics to better target struggling students

A recent article describes of the use of predictive analytics at Lone Star College.  In the past, male students—specifically, Hispanic and African American males—have been targeted through programs to improve their academic performance.  By incorporating predictive analytics—the practice of examining data for patterns and predictors—the college determined that Hispanic males actually performed better, on average, than all male students with regard to rates of persistence; however, African American male students were struggling. Although predictive analytics are not exact, it can provide useful assistance in identifying and better targeting students most in need of support. At present, the Lone Star College predictive system is a work-in-progress, and it is estimated to take another year before the system is implemented.

Another college has also used predictive analytics with hopeful results. Valencia College implemented a similar system three years ago and has seen anecdotal evidence that at-risk students are quickly connected with necessary support.  Former assistant vice president for institutional effectiveness and planning, Kurt Ewen, emphasized, however, that the power of the system is not in the predictive analytics, but comes from both the faculty and leadership that empowers and recognizes faculty as part of the solution.

Source:  Digital Community College Journal

Preliminary results disappointing in New Jersey

Nearly 85% of students entering New Jersey’s Essex County College required dev ed, placing into the lowest level of math.  In efforts to reverse this figure, the institution incorporated the emporium model, or adaptive learning—an approach incorporating technology to deliver course material.  At Essex, $1.2m from the Gates Foundation was used to develop two math labs where ALEKS, McGraw-Hill‘s adaptive math learning system, would be used.  The new approach also incorporated learning communities wherein students met twice a week to discuss useful learning strategies.  Despite the money and effort expended on this adaptive learning, preliminary results have not been promising.  So far, about 1,000 students have taken adaptive math courses with only 35% of students passing compared to 50% in traditional developmental math.  Despite the disappointing results, the college intends to stay the course to study what changes can and should be made.

Source:  Inside Higher Ed

North Carolina bill would require high school-college cooperation

It is estimated that 52% of students enrolled in North Carolina community colleges in 2013 required one or more developmental courses.  Of these students, 41% required dev ed in math and 36% in English.  Policymakers in the state are convinced that, with figures like this, public schools in the state are not adequately preparing students to be college-ready.  A new bill, proposed by Senator Chad Barefoot, would require a partnership between the state boards of community colleges and education to offer remediation before students graduate from high school.  While many believe that the bill is a step in the right direction, others remind that remediation issues are much deeper and that such problems typically begin before students enter high school.

Source:  Rhino Times

Community colleges in Tennessee nix traditional dev ed

Across community colleges in Tennessee, more than 70% of incoming students require developmental education; however, only 46.5% complete remediation and fewer (12.6%) graduate within three years’ time. To address low graduation rates, the state has eliminated traditional remediation and implemented a co-requisite model.  Students considered underprepared will start with introductory courses in math and English, and a learning support course to help students strengthen their academic skills.

Past pilots of the co-requisite approach in Tennessee have yielded positive results.  Underprepared students passed courses in statistics, quantitative reasoning, and English more frequently than in the traditional model at Austin Peay State University and nine other community colleges. Despite these results, concerns over using this approach linger.  Director of the National Center for Developmental Education, Dr. Hunter Boylan, voiced concerns that it is unclear whether the learning support class will help the most underprepared or first-generation college students, and further cautioned the use of a seemingly one-size-fits-all model, stating that sustaining such a system will be no easy task.

Sources:  Complete College America, PBS NewsHour