On 3/15/19 at 12:00pm, I attended the Professional Development Session RISE Training at the Engineering and Technology Building (SE 226) at Wake Technical Community College’s South Campus in Raleigh, NC presented by Scarlet Edwards.
We learned about the new RISE initiative across the state of North Carolina. Scarlet Edwards will be teaching us. RISE is critical for fall advising. This is a mandatory meeting for Matt Henry’s team, and they were nice enough to allow me to join this professional development training.
Completion Percentages: A Clear Look
One of the important things that we looked at was a clear graph outlining the completion percentages for students attempting college level Math and English in the first two years of college. The two courses were not significantly different, so we’re looking at the math numbers here. While numbers are increasing as time moves forward and we are offering more online classes in these, numbers of actual completions are still low. However, statistics show that students who complete these gateway courses achieve degrees.
It should be noted that 2014-2015 is when the multiple measure model was begun.
The college would like to see more students completing English and Math “Gateway” courses in the first two years. Many students are holding off on these courses, and then failing them so many times that they fail to achieve a college degree, or are forced to complete their AAS degree at another institution- we do all the work toward great training, and another school achieves our completion. We’d like to stop that.
By “Encouraging” our students to take these courses before other standard curriculum courses for our degrees, we will ultimately see more completions and student successes.
Instead of offering testing for students, a new system will place new students into classes automatically, and we should encourage our students to take these classes first.
A Healthy Debate
At this point in the discussion, there was a very healthy debate which erupted. Many faculty members voiced their opinions before everyone was encouraged to save questions to the end. This training is mandatory, and it is very important that every person has a chance to hear the information. I held my questions for the end, but the following points were made very clear:
- One faculty member has been teaching for 30 years. They noted that ENG and MAT courses are important, but the job skills are more important. Pushing off things that you like (technology training) for things which you don’t like (math problems and english papers) will encourage more students to quit early rather than late.
- Another faculty member noted that we would have more completers in the programs if we could have pre-degree requirements like the nursing program has. They have a 100% completion and 100% job-placement rating because they are able to cherry pick the best students before they begin. If we had this ability, we’d have no problems
- A faculty member suggested that if we could expand our program to a 3 year degree program we could solve many of these problems.
- Another faculty member stated that since neither Math nor English were Pre-requirements or Co-requirements for any classes within their program, there was no impetus to push this agenda. As student could get perfectly far in the program without facing any barriers to success.
- Another faculty member noted that students who fail in a majority of the intro classes do so because the ESL (english as a second language) and EFL (english as a foreign language) students have passed ENG111, but still cannot read or communicate well. Those students have already met these requirements and already are on a road to failure. This program should start with ESL and EFL and then evaluate success before putting this to all faculty
- One faculty member with over 20 years teaching noted that this system has not worked in the past and would not work. This was heavily agreed upon across the room, but since we hadn’t really heard the proposal yet, I thought this point was moot.
- One faculty member was quite vocal that programming required a mathematical mindset, but did not require intense calculations. Taking the math class before buckling down toward making some headway in their degree would not help the student, but might detract them from any of the material.
- One faculty member who had to take the gateway college algebra math class recently noted that the course was set up in such a way that unless you had taken the course before, your chances of completing it satisfactorily was nearly impossible. Unless, they noted you had already known the material of the course. It was set up so that those who knew the material would pass first time through, but those without intimate knowledge of it could be “thrown to the wolves”.
- Eventually, order was restored with the interest of finishing in time. I took notes on my questions.
NC Math Completions
These numbers on this slide were disturbing. One faculty member let us know that they told us the class was an issue, many people smiled politely. Based on population numbers, only 7% of African-Americans, 10% of Hispanics, Latinos, and Asians, and 14% of Caucasians pass a gateway level math course within 2 years of enrollment.
Lets take a look at the numbers for these specifically
Gateway English Completions
Looking at other states, we see that there are similar numbers based on gateway courses. We see there are 2 specific options noted here: Gateway courses which require a pre-requisite class or classes, and Gateway courses which require a co-requisite class. In North Carolina, we require pre-requisite classes to determine whether students are ready or prepared for English and Math. We double-check this with compass testing.
Looking to other states, we see that several of them are using a similar system. Some have better numbers, others are below ours. These states, however, have seen a large increase and jump in completions based on the change from pre-req courses to co-req courses.
By adding in a secondary class— a co-requisite class— the states have found that they were able to dramatically increase the number of course completions. Some say that because students are able to continue working on ideas and concepts outside of class time.
Gateway Math Completions
Again, we see the schools have very similar numbers to ours above. Again, when introducing the co-requisite courses, completions dramatically increase. These co-requisite classes are a bit like labs for science courses, or labs similar to language courses.
Question: Are these results accurate, or are they patting themselves on the back?
Answer: Good question. Our team visited schools in these states. They asked these same questions, and yes, these are the results they are seeing by the numbers.
What Is Rise
RISE is the program in North Carolina which we will use to achieve a similar system. Durham Technical Community College is already using this system in North Carolina. We will be taking this system up in Fall 2019. We will use this information to help us advise our students and to get to know the system completely.
It is important to note that this system will be put in place to get our students into the English and Math Gateway classes sooner. Students who complete these classes in the first two years seem numerically to have greater success and completions.
Question: What if we find that students placed in these courses are not achieving these results?
Answer: Our intent with the RISE system is not to increase the passing rate. We are just using this system to allow students to get access sooner and receive concurrent support at the right time for the students.
How Will Students Be Placed?
Compass testing was an easy requirement, but not every student tested well. And, the compass test will be going away. Moving forward, we will be using a new system based primarily on high school GPA. Based on a high school GPA, students will be placed in a column which will determine where students will start: Specifically, will a student be able to enter the gateway course directly, will they be required to take BOTH the gateway course and a co-requisite course, or will they need to take a transitional course?
GPA is the main determinate, but we can also see that testing scores on the ACT will also be taken into account. If students have scored well on the ACT score (within 2 points of the Target Score) of the particular category. Poor grades can be augmented by good test scores.
High School GPA is good for 10 years. If the result is over 10 years old, or not available, the student can pay to take the test for placement.
RISE Placement Credits
In the new system, all of our pre-curriculum classes and requirements go away. Based on the high school GPA, students will receive some or all credits for transition courses.
STAC Screen Need
Currently, we’ll need to use the STAC screen to see the credits given, as well as GPA and ACT scores. It was important to remember that the RISE system will not be in effect until the fall. Eventually, we will have a new screen called “XRISE” which will give use the right information.
Question: Is the ACT really this prevalent?
Answer: Yes, most schools use it now or encourage it. If a student does not have it, we may have SAT options available later, but just place them appropriately.
DAP Accuplacer is going away December 31st, if not before. Retaking the placement test is not allowed if you have high school GPA within 10yrs. Taking the test will cost the student money, and may take 5 hours. There are 3 sections of math (mastery tier 1,2,3) and 2 sections of english (mastery tier 1,2).
Placement Test Q&A
In looking at the placement test Q&A, we ran into some questions about the placement testing. I’ll add them here:
Question: What if the student hasn’t received their official high school transcripts?
Answer: We can use an unofficial transcript to determine these courses.
Question: What if we have an army vet who joins and they don’t have a record?
Question: What if we have a student who school burned down/no longer exists/home schooled without GPA?
Answer: It happens. They’ll have to take the placement test and pay the fee. Some vets have been in the service so long that they have no GPA and have not undertaken any education, they take the test. Some old schools had paper records, and suffered a calamity or are no longer around, especially private institutions. Those students would take the test. Some home school students simply were not given grades. They also take the test.
Co-Requisite Class Debate
At this time, there was another very lively debate. Many people had some loud and angry opinions. When the information was presented, it was given to us a very straightforward manner. This matter-of-fact information was clearly noted in an effort as if the presenter was trying to gloss over information. Eventually, the facilitator and the group head got people calmed down enough to continue. Concerns included:
- One teacher with 20 years of experience who noted that this system would still never work
- One teacher with 30 years of experience loudly noted that this would be impossible to keep track of
- One teacher noted that some students would possibly be facing 9 hours just for math with a co-req, and 15 hours for math and english courses and their co-requisites. How will a student be able to start their education if they are taking 15 credit hours in the first semester?
After calming down, we settled on a few related questions.
Question: Will the co-req grade count towards the GPA?
Answer: Yes, since it has credit hours, it will count towards student GPA
Question: How will the co-req count toward our degree credit numbers?
Answer: It will not be marked as a requirement. Students who are required to take it will have to do so.
Question: What if a student fails the co-req but passes the gateway class? What if they pass the co-req but fail the gateway class? What if they’re withdrawn from the pre-req class?
Answer: We’ll be talking about this later, but if a student fails the co-req class, they will be automatically dropped from the gateway course. However, if it comes down to the end of the course and the student passes the gateway course, they will still retain credit. If it comes down to the wire and the co-req is passed, the student will be able to take the gateway course a second time.
Question: What if the student chooses not to sign up for the co-req?
Answer: The co-req and the class will have to be signed up for together. They will be taught by different instructors. To sign up for one, the student must sign up for the other.
Question: What if the student stops going to the co-req class?
Answer: If a student is withdrawn from the co-req class for any reason, they will be automatically withdrawn from the gateway class.
Question: What if a student signs up for a co-req gateway because it fits their schedule. They are not required to take the co-req class.
Answer: Yes, that is true, but if they drop or withdraw from the co-req, they will be withdrawn from the gateway course. Students can opt-in to take the co-req but they’re under the same course requirements as other students. In for a penny, in for a pound.
Gateway Transition Courses
Developmental classes will go away at the end of the summer. Since there is really only a single ENG111 transitional course now, any students in remedial programs should endeavour to take RED097 to get themselves to the ENG111 course. There are several transition courses for math, because there are several gateway math courses. In some cases, this can be very helpful, because any math class can be used for our degrees.
Pedagogically speaking, a better option in some cases might be for students to sign up for the gateway w/co-req on purpose.
Just a recap: the DAP Accuplacer is going away December 31st, if not before. Retaking the placement test is not allowed if you have high school GPA within 10yrs. Taking the test will cost the student money, and may take 5 hours. There are 3 sections of math (mastery tier 1,2,3) and 2 sections of english (mastery tier 1,2).
Students taking these classes will not have the same teacher for the gateway course and the co-req course. The gateway course teacher can take the grade of the co-req into account when deciding on a final grade for the course.
Healthy Debate #3
At the question about this, faculty had some very strong opinions
- One faculty member asked to know what the criteria which could be taken into account might be?
Answer: It is up to the teacher. They can take anything into account. Assignments, attendance, final grade, class participation, its all up to the teacher
- One faculty member said that this sounded totally subjective, and some faculty members can take it into account and others would not?
Answer: Well, it is up to the teacher to decide
- If students ask the teacher and the teacher says “They will not take any other classes into account” can they change their minds?”
Answer: Yes, it will be up to the teacher to decide
- If the student no longer wishes to be in the class or co-req because the teacher is colluding with the gateway teacher, or vice versa, how will that effect them?
Answer: leaving either class will put them in a new course and new co-req— the classes are linked. This wouldn’t be good idea though, the new teacher may decide to take the grades into account and you’re right back where you started
- So, if a student is getting an A in the gateway course, fully participates, and is leading the class, they could still fail or get a b,c,d,f in the class… totally at the teacher’s discretion
Answer: Yes, the teacher can take the other class into account. If the student is not participating in the co-req classes, the gateway teacher could adjust the grade at their discretion.
- Don’t you think this might cause a lawsuit? An A-level student can be failed or dropped massively because while they are attending all classes, the co-req teacher might feel a “D” is earned in one class and should be pushed into the other?
Answer: Its possible, but they probably wouldn’t. But they could.
This seemed like it was going to be a problem. There is no official policy, its just teacher-decided material. Looks like it could be misused, abused, taken incorrectly, etc. The school is going to be on the wrong side of this.
Take a look at each of these examples and see where they should be placed!
Example 1: Kim
Because Kim has a 2.8 GPA or higher, she can go directly into a Gateway course.
Example 2: John
John will need to take transitional math courses, unless he can complete up to MAT050 this summer. I’d advise John to track down his 2011 high school transcript (clearly not present), and to take ENG097 this summer if his GPA was 2.2 or less. This would get him into the ENG co-req in a single session.
Example 3: Brandy
Brandy can go directly into the MAT121 Gateway because while her GPA is less than 2.8, she has an ACT math score which is high enough. She can take the gateway course over the summer, or better still, just take a break. She’ll have to co-req ENG111.
Example 4: Wheaton
Wheaton is good to go with no co-req due to high GPA and ACT scores, if the ACT was in 2008. Otherwise he’ll have to take the 5-hour placement test. Wheaton looks super-duper young to be in his 30s. I think this was a plant.
Example 5: Amy
Amy has too low of a GPA to go into any gateway courses alone, but she has a high enough ACT in Math to get a co-req course. She’s applying for the spring, so if she can take MAT020 this summer, she can get into MAT110 in the fall. Similarly, if she can take DRE097 this summer, she can get a co-req english course.
Example 6: Pete
Pete can take MAT121 in the fall with a co-req. He’s got credit for the high level maths, so if pete can finish MAT010-050 this summer, he can skip the co-req. Instead, he should take DRE097 this summer and get into the co-req for english.
Example 7: Chasity
Chasity is looking at a co-req with math, but I don’t know the SAT scores… If she can complete DRE097, she can take the co-req with english in the spring.
EXAMPLE 8: Julian
Julian can take DMA040-050 and not worry about co-reqs, and eng with a co-req in the fall.
Example 9: Sarah
Sarah should take DMA050 this summer and DRE098 if she can. This will save her extra hours and cost
I felt this was good training, but I already had a leg up on most people. I worry that summer school numbers of courses offered will go down. There will be courses offered, but there will need to be a far larger number of ENG faculty on campus, and that means more rooms.
Since our departments do not really require these ENG classes or MAT courses as pre-reqs for our programs, there is not an intrinsic need for us to push these classes sooner. It actually seems to work contrary to our purposes to push these classes at the beginning, and instead better to shove them off onto the summer courses. I worry about the “taking in to account” vagaries in the language, and see a pretty hefty lawsuit. If one student sues, another just has to “think” that the work is biased in some fashion to have a legitimate case. Once a student wins, every student who was under the policy could have legal grounds for changes to transcripts, and compensation if their grades were not good enough to transfer to their college of choice.