Alternative remediation options lead to student success

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

Eight California community colleges are finding success with a fresh take on remedial math courses.

More than 70 percent of California community college freshmen are assigned to algebra remediation. The success rates for these students have not been encouraging.

Each year, more than 140,000 students take their first remedial math course in a California community college. More than 100,000 of them will never complete the math required to earn a bachelor’s degree. This is according to a new report from the California Acceleration Project, a faculty-led professional development network aimed at transforming remediation.

More than half of African-American and Hispanic students in remediation are required to start in the lowest levels of the curriculum. Only about 6 percent go on to complete a math course that transfers to a four-year university.

Some California colleges are working to improve student outcomes. Faculty participating in the California Acceleration Project (CAP) have been redesigning courses to increase and accelerate success.

Eight colleges are offering redesigned statistics pathways, which streamlines students’ path through lower level math courses. “Students’ odds of completing a transferable math course were 4.5 times higher than in traditional remediation, and the achievement gap between African American and Asian students—the largest gap in traditional remediation—was eliminated,” according to the report’s authors.

Access to alternative remediation was vital to Lionel Hill’s success. Hill enrolled at City College of San Francisco in 2013. He wanted to earn a degree in library science and was hoping to become a teacher. He tested into the lowest level of math, but an instructor recommended the accelerated statistics pathway. It saved Hill a semester at college.

“It’s a serious class. But I worked hard and learned a lot. Everything I did in the class – the graphs, the percentages, the calculations, everything – helped me with the next class,” Hill said.

He went on to become a statistics tutor and has successfully transferred to San Francisco State University.

Jennifer Cummings-Martin had completed high school and some college in her native Guyana. When she came to the United States, she learned her college credits wouldn’t transfer. Rather than starting over at college, she got a job and eventually worked her way up to becoming a human resources director. Later, she decided to enroll at College of the Canyons and was told she’d have to take two years of math. Between frustrations with the first class and an illness in her family, it took Cummings-Martin three attempts to pass the first course. She moved into the accelerated statistics pathway, in which she could work in groups with other students and “each of us was invested in each other’s success as much as our own,” Cummings-Martin said.

She earned an A in pre-statistics and a B in college-level statistics. In 2015, she graduated with a degree in social science from Brandman University.

More student stories are available in the report.

How is your college working to improve remediation? Sound off on LinkedIn.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.