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Thinking Outside of the Box to Prepare Learners for College-Level Work

Thinking Outside of the Box to Prepare Learners for College-Level Work

According to the Community College Research Center (CCRC), of students who started at public two-year institutions in 2018, 62 percent were still enrolled—at any institution—one year later. Less than 54 percent remained at the same college. The reasons for the lack of persistence are many, but one of the most significant is related to academic readiness for college-level courses. The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) indicates that 41 percent of students whose first postsecondary enrollment after high school was in 2013–14 had taken one or more remedial courses as of June 2016. Further, these students needed to take and average of three remedial courses and passed an average of two of them.

Developmental courses are assigned to broaden students’ reading, writing, and/or math skills when testing, the review of transcripts, ACT and SAT scores, or other mechanisms reveal a lack of preparedness. Developmental courses do not result in credits toward a certificate or a diploma. Rather, students expend valuable financial aid and personal funds on such courses where they may or may not be successful. In fact, the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR) published findings stating that students who take developmental course are less likely to complete any type of degree program or certificate.

Dr. Jeff Judge, dean of humanities at Normandale Community College in Minnesota reports that students often exhaust their financial aid attempting to complete remedial courses. In addition, staffing such courses creates a significant drain on staffing resources, alongside the added cost of tutoring centers and writing labs. To that end, many institutions have created innovative instructional designs to better serve and support students.

Community College of Baltimore County, Maryland 

The Community College of Baltimore County designed a deep intervention program whereby students requiring remediation attend the credit-bearing class and then immediately attend an additional session with the same instructor to focus on problem areas. According to The Hechinger Report, this program has been successful, with nearly 40 percent of students completing English 101 and going on to complete English 102, as opposed to fewer than 15 percent who passed a traditional developmental course in 2014. The model has been replicated at 254 community colleges across the United States.

Normandale Community College, Minnesota 

Following a recent interview with Dr. Judge at Normandale Community College, a school located in a suburb of Minneapolis, I learned that a similar remedial program has been running for nearly five years with promising levels of success. Students are ranked based on high school GPA, ACT scores, and ACCUPLACER results. Based on these factors, students may be placed into a credit-bearing class simultaneously with a second section to build up skills and strategies. Normandale also provides tutoring and writing centers for all students; students demonstrating need are required to attend a certain number of hours per week. 

Ways Edmentum Can Help

While this strategy is promising in its approach, there are certain gaps that can be time-consuming for both students and instructors. If 40 percent of students are successful, that leaves more than half who are still at risk of not persisting. Edmentum Exact Path provides a seamless tool that can quickly close discrete skill gaps and propel learning with an adaptive diagnostic that generates a fully individualized learning path. As a digital tool, it is accessible anywhere, anytime, providing a highly flexible experience for learners. By supplementing remedial programs at community colleges with Exact Path, it is reasonable to expect that the percentage of students who are successful on their first attempt at developmental courses will increase, thereby saving valuable financial aid and faculty/staff resources.

Let’s say that, upon enrollment at a community college, a student’s score on the Tests of Adult Basic Education (TABE) for mathematics places the student at the 9th grade level. This student is not ready for college-level algebra, however, as the TABE only provides a suggested placement score without detail of what the student does and does not know. Exact Path is designed on a K–12 spectrum, making it easy to translate scores from one tool to another.  

After completing the Exact Path diagnostic, a learning path is created, assigning discrete skills the student is missing. Instead of dropping a pin in a line, Exact Path only assigns skills a student is lacking. If a student is enrolled in a college algebra course and a developmental math course simultaneously, the instructor has visibility into what areas a student needs remediation and which the student doesn’t. By spiraling skills up with a credit-bearing class, material is sticky, creating a higher chance of perseverance on the part of the learner.

Examples of Exact Path in Action 

For instance, if a college algebra class is addressing linear and nonlinear equations, but the student has not yet mastered 4th or 5th grade-level fractions, ratios, and proportions, Exact Path provides the instruction, practice, and assessment to catch the missing skill(s), allowing the student to accelerate forward in the moment. 

In another instance, a student might receive a score on the TABE in reading, approximating 7th grade level, making the student a candidate for developmental courses. When that student takes the Exact Path adaptive diagnostic, the system will provide a detailed plan of what skills the student does know and can apply, as well as a detailed map to remediate missing skills, including instruction, practice, and assessments.

Most college instructors do not have experience in K–12, nor do they have resources at hand to address specific student needs all the way down to lower elementary. Exact Path bridges this gap in a seamless and meaningful way with lessons that are developmentally appropriate and highly targeted for students approaching college-level work. With community college administrators under significant pressure to increase retention rates and find creative ways for students to complete remedial classes on the first attempt, strategic tools are integral.  

Want to learn more about closing skill gaps for adult learners with Exact Path? Check out this blog post.