CC trustee demands remedial fast track

A trustee’s campaign for fast-tracked remedial classes angered City College of San Francisco‘s faculty, reports the New York Times. But it appears Steve Ngo has pushed the college into offering a faster, more intensive remedial sequence. Currently low-scoring students — many of them black or Hispanic — face two-and-a-half years of remedial English and one-and-a-half years of remedial math. Very few who start the lowest level ever make it to college-level classes.

Ninety percent of new CCSF students place into the remedial English track; 70 percent need remedial math courses. As a result, remedial classes outnumber college-level classes.

Some freshmen do not know that “one-half and .5 represent the same number,” said Dennis Piontkowski, chairman of the mathematics department. “We don’t want to keep students in math classes forever, but you can’t just snap your fingers and bring them up to college level.”

Students are leaving high school with a diploma, but “most are testing at middle-school reading comprehension” and many at elementary-school level, said James Sauvé, an English department instructor in charge of revising the remediation classes.

Only 4 percent of black students, 7 percent of Hispanics and 12 percent of whites who started at the lowest remedial level in English eventually completed English 1A, a 2009 report stated.

When Ngo called for a one-year remedial sequence, faculty members were furious at his interference. He withdrew his proposal and issued what he admits was an insincere apology. Chancellor Don Q. Griffin then told math and English professors to come up with a fast-track option. CCSF will offer rapid remediation to 20 percent of students next year, Griffin said at a trustee meeting last week.

The Gates Foundation, which has invested $110 million in improving community college remedial programs, favors moving students quickly through basic skills courses.

At Chabot College across the Bay in Hayward, students who take an intensive, one-semester English remediation course pass college-level English at twice the rate of those who took a two-semester course, says Katie Hern, a Chabot English instructor.