College

HCC, area schools looking at growing number of unprepared college students

2012-12-02T06:00:00Z HCC, area schools looking at growing number of unprepared college studentsBy Lenore Sobota | lsobota@pantagraph.com pantagraph.com

NORMAL - Heartland Community College and schools within its district are attempting to address the problem of some high school graduates not being ready for college.

A recent report from an American Association of State Colleges and Universities task force, “Serving America’s Future: Increasing College Readiness,” concluded that U.S. educational achievement is “on a downward trajectory” requiring too many resources being devoted to remedial education.

At Heartland, about 75 percent of its students take at least one “developmental” course — the overwhelming majority needing math help.

The courses include a computer-based mathematics course that allows students to move at their own pace, and a reading program that attempts to break old habits and rewire the brain on how to read and comprehend.

Heartland President Allen Goben said the math course went into full-scale use last year and is showing good results. It allows students to move quickly through the material they understand and to zero in on what’s not clear.

Illinois State University Provost Sheri Everts said ISU attracts “very talented students” who transition well from high school to college, but there are support services for those who need it.

The only remedial courses offered at ISU are developmental math classes. About 500 students a semester take one of the courses, said Pamm Ambrose, associate director of University College, a program designed to assist students with the transition to ISU. Writing assistance, tutoring and workshops on study skills and time management are offered in addition to the math courses.

One of the problems with traditional lecture classes, where everyone moves at the same pace, is “some students are bored and some people are lost,” said Jeremy McClure, Heartland’s instructional chairman of mathematics and science.

At Heartland, said Breezy Seggerman, associate director of the developmental math center, students are required to come to the math lab four hours a week. Instructors and facilitators are there at specific times.

Seggerman said students raise a “flag” — actually, a red plastic cup — when “they get stuck,” and receive individualized assistance.

Lisa Cole, professor of reading, said students end up in developmental reading for a variety of reasons.

“It could be that they didn’t get it the first time around,” she said. “With others, they can read … but they may not know how to read academic disciplinary textbooks.”

Using a methodology called “Read Right,” students are taken back to a point where they could read fluently, then exercises are used to build on that, she said. The process has worked well, with significantly higher test scores after 17½ hours of instruction.

Heartland also offers tutoring and other student assistance.

Earlier start

While such courses help, the national association wants more to be done before students tackle college-level work. Preparation must start well before high school, according to the report.

One way elementary and high schools are addressing that is by adopting common core standards that emphasize college and career readiness.

Another way colleges can help high schools improve student preparation is by providing timely feedback on how their graduates perform, the task force concluded.

“I think it’s highly useful to give that feedback,” said Goben, but at this point, Heartland doesn’t have the “data infrastructure” to adequately track students and identify factors that lead to success or failure.

One way ISU helps, said Everts, is having professors work with the lab schools and other schools, “assisting in the K-12 environment.”

Goben would like to develop closer relationships between Heartland and high schools through joint professional development programs that bring together high school and college instructors who teach the same subjects.

The task force also recommended preparing students for the rigors of college by having them take college classes while still in high school. Referred to as dual credit classes, students receive both high school and college credit.

Lincoln College, a private school with campuses in Lincoln and Normal, offers two science, two English and four math courses for dual credit at Lincoln Community High School.

“It’s been a good relationship. Curriculum-wise, we have to go by Lincoln College standards, and there is the obvious benefit of high school students getting college credit before they start college,” said LCHS principal Todd Poelker.

Heartland offers dual credit classes at about a dozen schools and Goben said he wants to expand that program.

Both McLean County Unit 5 and Bloomington District 87 are interested.

Currently, students in those districts can only get dual credit if they are taking classes at the Bloomington Area Career Center, and those are from Illinois Central College and Joliet Junior College. There are no dual credit options in the general education area at Unit 5 and District 87 high schools.

“We are working with Heartland Community College to offer more dual credits in 2013-2014,” said Unit 5 Superintendent Gary Niehaus.

At University High School, an ISU lab school, about 20 students take dual credit courses at ISU or Heartland each semester. ISU is within walking distance and students provide their own transportation to Heartland, said guidance counselor Karen Valouche.

The task force also says “strong teacher preparation programs” are essential to the overall strategy.

Barbara Meyer, chairwoman of ISU’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction, agreed that “having strong teachers provides K-12 students with opportunities to be successful after school, whether it’s college or a job.”

Not everyone can or wants to go to college, she noted, but “the possibility of every child going to college should be there.”

Phyllis Coulter contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 pantagraph.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(12) Comments

  1. 4kids
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    4kids - December 03, 2012 9:49 am
    As a teaching professional, I can assure you that public schools are evaluating and teaching students to read and do math. I am not seeing any documentation on the number of students with a learning disability or other special needs in the article, but there are students with limitations that are attending college.
    As for the public school system, I would love to give more individualized time with my students, but lack of support in the form of aides, lack of time, and the amount of paperwork that I am required to keep, prevent me from giving more. I am at school at 6 a.m. and don't leave before 6 p.m. Many of my colleagues are doing the same. We need people not cuts in our budget!! If you want to make changes, give us our people supports back in our classrooms.
  2. frankd
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    frankd - December 03, 2012 8:32 am
    Interesting that this article doesn't mention children with learning disabilities. Heartland, being a community college has to accept all applicants. That means anyone living in the district heartland serves. I know several students attending HCC that have MEDICALLY diagnosed learning disabilities. Those students would not be admitted into a university like ISU, because they do not qualify based on ACT/SAT test scores nor grade point average. Obviously this class of students will need remedial math/reading help. I applaud those students for continuing their education even if doing so is extremely difficult. BTW, most children with LD are not excluded from NCLB testing.
  3. Nshape
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    Nshape - December 03, 2012 6:09 am
    No, NCLB is actually a measure of motivation. Kids can blow off the tests with absolutely no consequences and even laugh about how bad they did afterwards. Plus, it is set up to assume that every class has the exact same intelligence makeup of kids as the class before. Therefore, if the next class has more "low" students that do poorly, then it makes it look like the teacher failed that year, when in fact the results of the test were merely a reflection of the intelligence of the class compared to the previous year. Get a clue!
  4. Nshape
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    Nshape - December 03, 2012 6:04 am
    So if you say public schools are for those NOT destined for greatness, then the game is changing, isn't it? The round peg is being forced into the square hole trying to make every kid college-bound or else it gives the false impression that schools are failing. You are contradicting yourself with your bait-and-switch tactics in an attempt to make it look like schools are failing the students when in fact the students are CHOOSING to fail.

    You mean to tell me that everyone in your graduating class who failed at life is because of your school district and teachers you had? Schools provide opportunities, and kids have to take advantage of them. My friends and I had goals in life, did well in school, and are doing well. Some of my other former classmates are completely floundering. Now does that mean that the good teachers we had suddenly become bad teachers when the conversation turns to the kids who made bad choices in life? I don't think so, and I can't understand why you think kids have no accountability to learn and put forth effort.
  5. ct
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    ct - December 03, 2012 3:39 am
    Exactly!

    The students are not broken, the education system is.
    Congrats for sticking it out.
  6. ct
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    ct - December 03, 2012 3:38 am
    The school districts are the ones who allow children to fail and not be held accountable; I know I served on a school board and tried to fight it. It was a bargaining issue the teachers refused to budge on.

    No teacher or school wants to actually fail all the students who would not pass, or hold back or prevent from graduating all those who would.
    The public would go mad, and would hammer the districts budget and tax hikes, which means no more automatic raises or new building projects.

    75% of new heartland students need remedial math meaning they failed 9/10th grade math at a local high school but got a passing grade; and basically failed it again the next two years.


    Let's not forget, our public school system was created for those NOT destined for greatness. Those upper tier students would succeed with not public school; their parents would send them privately or do it on their own, which is how many are doing it stuck in broken schools or paying a church school.
    Public school is meant to educate those who don't have the resources and advantages in their home life.
  7. ct
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    ct - December 03, 2012 3:29 am
    what?

    NCLB was about testing, metrics, and accountability.
    It didn't make schools change anything, it just showed the public in a comparative manner where they were succeeding and failing with standardize testing.

    The downward trajectory of results was occurring long before NCLB, but was clouded in teacher and district double talk.

    Obviously the initiative had a side mission of encouraging support for private education as well by shining the spotlight on public failures, and excluding testing at private facilities, as well as the higher public costs.
  8. Nshape
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    Nshape - December 02, 2012 11:47 am
    Right on!! What we're seeing here is the day of reckoning where kids who vehemently don't care and don't try in school, don't want to be held accountable, and/or have parents who don't want them to be held accountable throughout their teens finally meet a losing battle with real-world responsibility. It might be easy to skate through school getting C's and D's, but when the stakes are higher, all of the slacking and unwillingness to learn and commit concepts to memory becomes a regrettable decision. Don't get me wrong, there are many, many awesome kids who have their heads on straight and are on a successful path, but it is not as much as any of us would like.

    And Perfume River, to add to what you said, it is 1000X easier to help kids destined for greatness and challenge them than it is to help and bring up the ones who refuse to be scraped off the bottom. The time and energy vs. the payoff is about as inefficient as driving down the interstate w/ your parking brake on. We all have to dog-and-pony like that's not true, but we all know it is.
  9. perfume river
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    perfume river - December 02, 2012 8:32 am
    NCLB is finally showing results, those doomed to failure have improved while those destined to greatness have been pulled down, the best and the worst now meet in the middle. America looses.
  10. Reesy
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    Reesy - December 02, 2012 7:33 am
    After receiving an Associate's degree from HCC and a Bachelor's from ISU, the issue that concerns me is the available help in the math labs. There were people there to supposedly help, but I found most to be useless because they didn't know the information themselves. Many were seniors or graduate assistants who hadn't utilized the information they were trying to teach in a long time. In other words, they couldn't remember the material freshmen students needed to learn. While at ISU, the graduate assistant that taught my Algebra class basically just copied the book on the board; I could have done that myself. I was there for to benefit from an expert's teaching. I felt like I had been robbed that semester when 53% of the freshman failed Algebra, including me. I did not have this problem in high school; I learned the material, but after an 8 year stint in the work world and then deciding to go to college, I could not remember Algebra. I needed qualified help to re-teach me Algebra. I did not get it at either school, so I hired a former professor to tutor me. That was the only way I passed Algebra and moved on to the next level in the math courses. By the way, the tutor I hired managed to teach me all of the material in the book in 2.5 weeks. At ISU I thought I was paying for a college level instructor, but what I really paid for was a student teacher.
  11. exrepub
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    exrepub - December 02, 2012 6:38 am
    When I was working I saw on a daily basis people with college and people without. Imo there was no correlation between working ability and college. The difference was and this has been throughout the years that some who are perfectly capable could not go to college because of finances. Others were just not encouraged to go. I have always thought watching through employment eyes that jr college should be available for all students that wanted it and money should not be a roadblock. The last two years should be made available. When I went to school you could get scholarships but when you graduated you had to teach for 2 years or pay the money back. Otherwise you loans should be available which you must pay back. College does not turn you into snobs. Or loafers. It turns you into an educated person - when they apply themselves, who hopefully will apply some of the things they learned in college to the work place. But as I have seen, when only those whose parents can afford to send them to college get jobs, they get higher pay but they still might be in their party mode because they know they don't have as much competition and they don't have to work as hard as a general rule as those without college. College needs to help get you in the door but if you don't produce the goods it needs to be a revolving door and let a more deserving person end up with the job . And I sometimes think that is why some simply do not want more people graduating from college. Competition. They won't be snobs. They will be competitors.
  12. exrepub
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    exrepub - December 02, 2012 6:25 am
    I think what happened when NCLB was implemented, because of the results and aggressiveness of it, instead of no child being left behind, most of them are left behind. You should not have to teach to the test. When you teach a child and they learn, they can easily past the tests. I have witnessed firsthand what happens in some elementary schools. A lot of things are wrong. But take math as an example in about 2nd or 3rd grade they must past their times tables not 80%, 90% but 100%. Ridiculous. Why? because they don't take those tests daily and if it take them weeks to get 100% when 90% is an A after all. And they never get to move on and never get to division. Wouldn't it be better to pass them all at 90% and move on and be exposed to all of them instead of a few of them. And by the way you have to get them 100% in 3 secs or so. If you had 5 secs you could get 100%. I complained and they said they had to adhere to state standards. That is only one example and you see the results. My sixth grader was never taught and emphasized long division. Maybe a total of 6 wks in 3 yrs or so. He was taught fractions by using the calculator. That is how the teacher told me they did it. If you do not teach your children effectively but you cram things in their heads and move on and move on and move on, no wonder children are frustrated and give up by the time they get to jr high and high school and no wonder we have bad test scores and unprepared children. Who get A's by the way. We need to scrap no child left behind. We need to return to teaching the children so they will remember stuff forever. If they don't know how to do it, look back to 50's and 60's when children succeeded. And apply those methods. We learned and we could pass the tests. People want to blame the children or the parents and say they are just uninvolved and lazy. I disagree. Maybe some are. But then they probably aren't going to Heartland are they. The ones we are talking about are the middle or the exceptional. When they fail and don't know that is when you realize we have big problems. And as I said, I have witnessed what they are. How they daily teach the children or not, is imo the culprit. We need to correct that..
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