New program designed to help prepare students

MCCC is looking for a solution for the increasing number of students who are not ready for college courses.

Developmental education courses are refresher or crash courses to get students ready for college level classes, Grace Yackee, Vice President of Instruction, said.

“We’re getting an increasing number of students who are not ready for college-level study,” Yackee said.

Currently, MCCC offers three developmental education courses: English 090, Reading 090, and Math 090.

The COMPASS test at MCCC is designed to reveal if students are ready to register for college classes, or if they need developmental education classes first.

Students can take other college courses with the 090 courses, which is causing controversy among some faculty who believe they should not be able to register for classes until they have passed the 090 course.

Students currently can take the 090 courses regardless of their COMPASS score. One of the issues the college is considering is whether to require a minimum score to test into the developmental courses.

“Of the about 40 percent of our students who test into developmental education classes, the bottom 25 percent of those aren’t ready for developmental ed,” Yackee said. “Their scores are so low, they will not be successful in developmental ed.”

These students need something else first, Yackee said.

Several ideas are being discussed as potential permanent solutions, but next semester MCCC is hoping to try a temporary fix, according to Vinnie Maltese, dean of the Mathematics/Science division and acting dean of the Humanities/Social Sciences division.

 English 090 students would take a writing assessment the first day of class, and the students who could progress well enough in the 15 weeks of the semester would do that, Maltese said.

The students who were unlikely to successfully complete the course in 15 weeks would be put into another class.

“We’d like to get those students in the same class so the class can proceed at a speed where they can benefit as much as possible,” Maltese said.

“We’re trying to make every effort to get the right instructors matched with the right students, so that students can make the maximum amount of progress over the semester.”

A similar system is also being considered for the Reading 090 class as well.

For Math 090, MCCC is planning a redesign of the whole sequence of math courses, Maltese said.

Coming up with a permanent solution is where the real difficulties lie.

“The issue becomes: What do we do, what are we obligated to do, what is there in our mission to do,” Maltese said. “We can do things temporarily to try to help, but it’s a bigger issue.”

Most colleges have come up with a low-end score that shows students are not ready for the developmental education courses, and then those students are referred to an agency in the community that can help them.

For MCCC, the Learning Bank would be the ideal place, but there are more students with those needs than the Learning Bank can handle, Maltese said.

Vuncia Council, Learning Bank coordinator, thinks that the Learning Bank is an important component to MCCC and its developmental education program.

“Several of our students have been at that level where they would be in 090 at MCCC, and we work with them until they can get to that place where, when they test again, they’re going into the credit classes and they don’t even go through 090 anymore,” Council said.

“If the Learning Bank is looked at as an extension to the college, then it’s not a failure.”

Council said the reason for the growing number of students who are coming back to college unprepared is that they got laid off from jobs where they did not need a degree.

“Now those jobs don’t exist, and they don’t have the skills to transition into something else,” she said. “So that’s why there’s such a heavy weight on the community colleges. But then in turn, when they go to the community colleges they still aren’t going to be successful if there’s not additional programs put in place to help them be successful.”

“I applaud MCCC for really wanting to grow that piece that has to do with developmental education.”

MCCC’s Developmental Education committee is still in the early stages of working on the transformational changes.

The changes would require solutions to be made for those students who will be affected by any future policies requiring a minimum score to test into developmental education courses.

Solutions could include the Learning Bank network or Lifelong Learning courses to help prepare the underprepared.

For the Spring 2011 semester, MCCC is hoping to offer new Lifelong Learning courses that would help students with English and reading.

“As we look into making this a policy change, we need to have resources in place to help students,” Yackee said.