By Carol A. Twigg
Changing the Equation: Scaling a Proven Innovation
With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) recently announced a major program, Changing the Equation. The program will engage the nation’s community colleges in a successful redesign of their remedial/developmental math sequences (i.e., all mathematics courses offered at the institution prior to the first college-level math course.) The goal of this new redesign program is to improve student learning outcomes in remedial/developmental math while reducing costs for both students and institutions using NCAT’s proven redesign methodology. Institutions will be selected to participate in the program through a competitive application process described in the program’s Application Guidelines and will receive a $40,000 grant to support the implementation of their redesigns. Those institutions will be expected to pilot their redesign plans in spring 2011 and fully implement their plans in fall 2011.
A major obstacle for students who are pursuing degrees or credentials in community colleges is successfully completing the college mathematics requirement. Unfortunately, that frequently means completing both remedial and/or developmental math courses as well as college-level math courses. A 2004 study by the U.S. Department of Education found that over 60% of community-college students needed remediation. Students lacking in the competencies and skills required to enroll in college-level courses face significant challenges persisting to a degree.
Unfortunately, there has been very little change in how institutions design their academic programs and create support systems to meet the needs of their students who enter college without the necessary skills to perform college-level work. Successful completion rates in community colleges for remedial and developmental math courses rarely move beyond 50% and are often less than that. Completing a series of non-credit courses to overcome deficiencies involves significant time and money for students, slowing academic progress and sometimes derailing the momentum that comes with initial enrollment in postsecondary education....