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COC honored for use of proven, innovative teaching strategies

Lauded for basic skills math and English programs

Posted: May 11, 2009 4:15 p.m.
Updated: May 11, 2009 5:47 p.m.
Officials from the Hewlett Leaders in Student Success program recognized College of the Canyons Friday as one of three California community colleges honored in 2009 for the use of innovative and proven teaching strategies in the college's "basic skills" foundational math and English programs.

A division of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Hewlett Leaders in Student Success program annually recognizes colleges that demonstrate promising and innovative approaches to student success in basic skills education.

In particular, the program looks for colleges that use outcome data to validate levels of success that can then be shared and replicated at other institutions.

As a Hewlett Leaders honoree, the college will receive a $15,000 instruction grant in order to conduct "train the trainer" information sessions at surrounding community colleges, allowing College of the Canyons faculty and administrators to share the techniques and strategies used to help basic skills math and English students succeed.

"It's a tremendous honor for us to receive this recognition. We were pleased to be one of the 11 California community colleges nominated for this award," said Audrey Green, associate vice president of academic affairs at the college. "We plan to begin making presentations and disseminating our effective teaching program practices at statewide conferences beginning in the fall."

According to information provided by Hewlett Leaders, each year roughly half a million new students enroll in community colleges, but at least 70 percent are not prepared for college level coursework.

Basic skills courses help under-prepared students master the math and English language skills required for success in transfer-level courses in which students can begin working toward an associate or bachelor's degree.

In selecting the grant recipients, Hewlett Leaders program officials reviewed data from more than 100 community colleges that tracked the success of three recent cohorts of students in basic skills math and English courses. The standard of success was based on the percentage of students who progressed through pre-collegiate classes and moved on to transfer-level coursework.

The 27 schools with the strongest data were then asked to give examples of specific strategies they use to increase success among basic skills students. From those schools, 11 were selected for a site visit from a two person visiting team in order to observe classrooms and interview key campus personnel before final decisions were made about the three grant recipients.

College of the Canyons programs reviewed included the "15 College Success Tips" program and the Personalized Accelerated Learning program (PAL).

The "15 College Success Tips" program is designed to promote one or more "success tip" each week in each participating course. By working to increase awareness levels among students and faculty about specific success skills, encouraging the discussion and implementation of success skills in all classes and creating student learning networks, college officials have seen an increase in both the retention levels and success rates of students.

The college's PAL program offers students a series of back-to-back, short-term classes in math and English designed to accelerate the student's progression from a basic skills coursework level to a degree-applicable course of study.

College officials have also seen an increase of student success rates within the PAL program.

For instance, in last fall's first semester English PAL program, 79 percent of the participants progressed through two levels of coursework in a single semester to a transfer-level English class - compared to just 38 percent of students from fall 2006 who successfully progressed to a transfer level course over a two-year period.

Similarly, 62 percent of students enrolled in the fall 2008 pre-algebra PAL program progressed from pre-algebra to a degree-applicable math course during the semester, compared to just 17 percent of students from fall 2006 who progressed to a transfer level math course over a two-year period.

"Students who place into basic skills courses are often deterred from enrolling because, to them, it seems as if they'll never be able to reach the transfer level courses," Green said.

"At College of the Canyons, we want to provide opportunities that will not only enhance student success but promote a spirit of persistence, while keeping students out of the type of classroom environments in which they've previously been unsuccessful."

College of the Canyons will be officially recognized by the Hewlett Leaders in Student Success at the 2009 Strengthening Student Success Conference in San Francisco in October.

Award-winners were announced Friday, May 8 in Sacramento.


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