Symposium: Collaborate for completion

To ensure high school graduates are ready for college, community college leaders must collaborate with high school educators on common standards, said panelists at a “virtual symposium” at Maryland’s Montgomery College.

Jill Biden, a community college instructor and the vice president’s wife, led the session, which was designed as a cap to the four regional community college summits. Education Secretary Arne Duncan,  Education Under Secretary Martha Kanter and Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard attended.

In addition to working with high schools on college readiness, the symposium discussed  improving the effectiveness of remedial classes.

As many as 60 percent of community college students need remedial reading, writing or math class, according to an Education Department report released to coincide with the symposium.

Developmental classes “may not improve students’ persistence or completion rates and, in some cases, may actually hinder their progress toward educational goals,” the report warned.

Remediation should target each student’s learning needs so they can move quickly to college-level classes, said Shanna Smith Jaggars, a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center. When students have to take an entire class to learn a few concepts, they become discouraged and drop out.

Other key issues that emerged from the regional summits are designing bridge programs for adult students with skill gaps and partnering with employers to align curriculum and instruction with workplace realities.