Transforming Basic Skills Delivery at Community Colleges: Minimizing the Exit Points on the Path to Student Success
By Campaign for College Opportunity
Executive Vice President Jessie Ryan
This year, California made a significant historic investment in redesigning remedial education. We now have an unprecedented opportunity to move the needle on student success. The Campaign stands ready to work alongside those willing, to ensure the integrity of this investment and the program’s successful implementation.
As the California Community College system embarks on the implementation of the Basic Skills and Student Outcomes Transformation Program, we urge the system to ensure these new monies are allocated effectively towards high-impact practices that will truly move the needle on student success.
We strongly believe the single greatest lever for moving the needle on student achievement, is addressing the way we deliver basic skills at our community colleges. The troubling reality is that somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of students entering community colleges, are assessed as below college-ready and need remediation in math or English or both. Even more disconcerting is that of these students, a staggering 60% will fail to complete their gateway English course and more than two-thirds will never complete college-level math, thus hindering their ability to meet both their college and career aspirations.
Fortunately, bright spots of redesigning remedial education exist and we have lifted-up several proven practices that significantly reduce the time students spend in remediation, while also yielding tremendous results, as detailed by the California Acceleration Project’s (CAP) outstanding faculty testimony at the recent Board of Governor’s meeting. CAP has also laid out strategies that are producing remarkable results and should be taken to scale statewide. With this in mind, the Campaign in partnership with the California EDGE Coalition, successfully led the effort to help colleges transform delivery of basic skills at community colleges.
The Basic Skills and Student Outcomes Transformation Program adopted in the 2015-16 Budget Act, provides a comprehensive approach to challenges colleges face in implementing high-impact basic skills redesign practices. The goal is to 1) substantially increase the number of community colleges students who complete college-level English or math, or both and/or 2) earn a college certificate or degree within two years.
The key elements of the program include:
- Identifying High Impact Practices. Redesigned approaches are different from traditional models of remedial education in that they seek to minimize exit points and reduce the time students spend in remediation. That is why, this program targets the following high-impact practices:
- Help students avoid remediation altogether by relying on more than a high-stakes assessment test. Instead, assessment and placement policies review multiple student readiness indicators – for example, a student’s overall high school GPA. This also includes mainstreaming students directly into college-level math and English courses with supplemental remedial support.
- Redesign and shorten remedial course sequences. Successful programs have redesigned math and English sequences to remove redundancies and better align them with what students need to know for the college pathway they intend to pursue.
- Contextualize remediation so students learn the necessary English and math skills in the context of their vocational or academic instruction.
- Provide proactive student support services that are integrated with instruction.
- Scaling Existing Efforts.The opportunity for colleges to scale existing efforts is a cornerstone of this effort. Some campuses throughout the state are already engaging in these innovative practices. However, they do so at a very small scale, often limited to one or two course sections that are not available to most students. The vision of this program is to position those colleges to qualify for a grant to scale-up and help create a robust uptake by colleges in the first year.
- Professional Development and Technical Assistance. Professional development and technical assistance are essential to the success of this program. Grant recipients must be provided with technical assistance to redesign their curriculum by content experts familiar with the high impact practices. Similarly, faculty must receive the professional development to support their transition from traditional methods of remedial education instruction.
The critical role that community colleges play in offering opportunity to all our citizens is unrivaled. Ensuring that opportunity leads to greater success for more of its students is the biggest opportunity to strengthen our economy and workforce.