Large research studies inside and outside California have established that the more levels of developmental courses a student must take, the less likely the student is to ever complete college courses in English and Math.
The California Acceleration Project stresses that we can’t keep attributing this problem to students’ low skills or low motivation. Instead, we must examine our curricular sequences themselves. In a series of 8 regional workshops in 2010-11, initiative leaders Katie Hern and Myra Snell made the case that high attrition rates are structurally guaranteed in multi-semester developmental sequences. The more “exit points” where students can fall away by not passing or not enrolling in the next course, the smaller the number of students who will complete the final course.
Colleges across California are joining a movement to increase the number of students completing college English and Math. As of June 2011, more than 80 colleges had participated in 3CSN’s acceleration initiative, and large numbers of them are shortening developmental sequences, reducing the number of “exit points,” and refocusing their instruction on the most essential skills and ways of thinking required in a good college-level course. 19 colleges are participating in the 2011 Community of Practice in Acceleration, planning curricula and pedagogy for the accelerated English and pre-Statistics courses they will teach in 2011-12. An additional 14 colleges participated in the 2011 Basic Skills Leadership Institute, focusing on launching accelerated pilots by 2012-13.
What Do We Mean by Acceleration?
A Working Definition:
Accelerated developmental education involves curricular restructuring that reduces sequence length and eliminates exit points. Ideally, it also includes a reconsideration of curricular content: Is what we are teaching in developmental courses what students truly need to succeed in college English or Math?
Key Student Outcome to Track:
What percentage of students from different starting placements go on to complete transferable gatekeeper courses in English/Math?
California a Strong Presence at National Conference on Acceleration
Faculty from across California traveled to Baltimore in June for this annual event hosted by the Community College of Baltimore County. 3CSN’s statewide acceleration work was featured in several presentations, along with local acceleration efforts at Berkeley City College, Chabot College, City College of San Francisco, Los Medanos College, and San Diego Mesa College.
Resources for Colleges Interested in Acceleration
Making the Case for Acceleration
Sample Curricular and Pedagogical Materials
News Stories on Acceleration