Virginia community colleges are redesigning remedial education, writes Rose Asera in Innovation at Scale for Jobs for the Future. The goal is improve success rates — completion of a workforce credential, associate degree or transfer to a four-year institution — by 50 percent for all students, 75 percent for blacks and Hispanics.
By 2013, developmental mathematics will be taught as a series of nine one-credit modules with students taking only as much math as they need for their fields of study. Developmental English will combine reading and writing and will let some students co-enroll in a developmental class and college-level English.
Math is the biggest obstacle for community college students, an analysis found. In most parts of the state, more than 76 percent of new students aren’t prepared for college-level math. The need for reading and writing help is not as severe.
Only a third of students placed in remedial math graduated or transferred within four years; a quarter of those placed in remedial math and remedial English graduated or transferred.
Until now, all students have been required to pass the same math sequence, whether they’re planning to major in engineering, liberal arts or go for a career tech certificate. That will change in the new plan.
“We are ‘overmathing’ our liberal arts students,” said Frank Friedman, co-chair of the math redesign team.
“Let’s give students the math they need,” said Jane Serbousek, a math instructor at Northern Virginia Community College. “A nursing student doesn’t need the same amount of math as an engineering student. We were taking our weakest students
and expecting them to complete in one or two semesters the math they did not
master in all of middle school and high school.”
In addition, the community colleges hope to persuade high schools to give placement tests so students will understand that community colleges don’t offer open admissions to college-level classes.