California Acceleration Project

June 2011: Faculty from across California gather in San Diego to plan for accelerated English and pre-Statistics courses they will teach in 2011-12

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.

Webinar: “College Completion: Why Accelerating Developmental English and Math is the Essential First Step”

Newsletter: Acceleration News from across California…

What Do We Mean by Acceleration?

Just about anything can be called “acceleration” these days, but beware of buzzwords. Without significant curricular redesign, we will never meaningfully increase the number of students completing college English or Math.


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?

Select Models of Acceleration


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

Exponential Attrition and the Promise of Acceleration in Developmental English and Math

Bringing Accelerated Math and English to your Campus

Interactive Activity to Help Make Case for Acceleration on Campus

“Student Progression through Developmental Sequences” (CCRC Brief #45) by Thomas Bailey et al. Community College Research Center.

Literature Review on Acceleration, Community College Research Center


Sample Curricular and Pedagogical Materials

Course outline for accelerated reading-and-writing course at Chabot College

Chabot College English Curriculum Philosophy

Materials used in Katie Hern’s accelerated English course at Chabot College

5-Minute video from Katie Hern’s accelerated English course at Chabot College

“Thoughts on Choosing Reading” for an accelerated English class

“Attending to the Affective Domain,” a draft framework for accelerated classrooms

Website for Myra Snell’s accelerated pre-Statistics course at Los Medanos College

5-Minute video from Myra Snell’s accelerated pre-Statistics course at Los Medanos College


News Stories on Acceleration

“Getting Community College Students Caught Up,” the California Report, KQED radio

“Abandon Hope, All Who Enter,” Thoughts on Public Education

“Remaking Remedial Education,” Thoughts on Public Education

“At City College, a Battle Over Remedial Classes for English and Math” by Carol Pogash, New York Times


Links to Established Accelerated Programs in Other States

The Accelerated Learning Project at Community College of Baltimore County

FastStart at Community College Denver