News - 08/5/2014

New Pilot Program Prepares Students for College-Level Math in Just Two Weeks

leila Safaralian

A pilot program aimed at preparing new MiraCosta College students for critical assessment tests shows that those involved in the new effort are making significant gains and can bypass some remedial courses.

MiraCosta College launched its Bridge to Success mathematics program this summer as part of the California Community Colleges’ Student Success Initiative. The initiative is a years-long effort aimed at improving student outcomes at the state’s 112 community colleges.

Bridge to Success at MiraCosta College is a daily mathematics boot camp spread over two weeks that reviews material some students studied years ago. The intent of the program is to allow students to retake and potentially improve on their original assessment test results in mathematics. The first session started June 16 and included 16 students; the second session started July 2 and included 20 students.

The improvement on assessment tests after completing the Bridge to Success program was astounding, according to preliminary data from the first cohort of students. One student saw his score on an Elementary Algebra assessment rise from 42 percent to 84 percent. Another student’s score rose from 38 percent to 76 percent. A third student’s score shot up from 31 percent to 82 percent. The net result of these improvements allows students to start their math classes at a higher level than their initial placement. 

“Based on the initial data, we are really very encouraged,” said Carlos Lopez, dean of Mathematics and Sciences at MiraCosta College.

Community colleges evaluate the readiness of thousands of incoming students each year. Most use standardized placement tests to get the job done. However, many students don’t even know the placement tests exist and few prepare for the exams.

Students who score poorly on the assessments are placed into what is known as basic skills classes—remedial courses needed before college-level work can be tackled. Research shows that students placed in remedial courses are far more likely to drop out of college, often out of frustration over how long it takes to earn a degree or certificate.  
 
“If a student improves their placement by just one course level, that’s a semester saved,” Lopez said.

MiraCosta College will be tracking students who were able to avoid being placed in basic skills courses to see how they fare over time. But college officials already are talking about expanding the program.

“Many students don’t review material before taking an assessment,” Lopez said. “If they had done a review, they may have done much better on the test. The summer Bridge to Success program is a promising way to make sure our students are prepared and are being accurately measured.”

MiraCosta College’s Bridge to Success was the brainchild of mathematics instructor Leila Safaralian. She said the first two hours of class are devoted to lectures, with an instructional aide on hand to help. The second two hours of class are devoted to review.

“So far, the results are awesome,” Safaralian, said. “We are being showered with `thank yous’ and emails from the students. A lot of them are hugging each other and crying after seeing their improvement. It is very satisfying to see.”

For more information, contact Leila Safaralian at lsafaralian@miracosta.edu.

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