April 2, 2018
Corequisite Success in Arkansas
I have worked with the student population for over 20 years now. When I began teaching developmental and college writing at a community college in 1998, there was nothing like corequisite support. In 2011, I became involved with Complete College America as a project director for Arkansas. I was tasked with coordinating all aspects of a grant the state received through CCA to fund implementation of the Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) for reading and writing at nine participating institutions. At that time, they were still offering traditional math remediation or what we called modular math. I learned about corequisite math at a meeting when we were already a year into the grant timeline.
In 2014, I accepted a position at the University of Central Arkansas as Director of the University College, which is now called the Department of Student Transitions. Through the CCA grant, UCA was already pairing their transitional writing course with a college writing course (the Peter Adams model). The university also paired a reading remediation course and a few general education courses. Students took both at the same time; however, it wasn’t a corequisite model. In the fall of 2014, we piloted a corequisite Quantitative Literacy model that produced great outcomes.
We also piloted corequisite College Algebra in 2015. We had several different versions of algebra at that time, from a standalone intermediate algebra to an eight-week accelerated course, but we immediately realized that the corequisite model was outperforming the others. It only took us one semester to say, ‘this is far better than what we’re doing.’
We stripped away all of the intermediate algebra content, because it was more than what was needed to be successful in college algebra. Initially, there was some tension with faculty who were used to teaching that content, but the data just didn’t support keeping it. Many of the students completing intermediate algebra were not choosing to go directly into a college level math course the following semester. Ultimately, they weren’t as successful as students in the corequisite course, which had been paired down to include only the content needed to match the concepts in college algebra.
In the corequisite algebra course, we are averaging an 85 percent success rate. Last fall, we had a 92 percent pass rate. Successful completion of the transitional writing course is at about 80 percent. There are some factors that may account for some of the difference in the level of success. Students must earn a C or higher in college writing to go on to the second semester course. In math, students can earn a D and move on.
Also, the same math faculty teach both the corequisite and the college level algebra. In writing, that’s not the case for the majority of sections; each semester one instructor will teach both the transitional writing and the college-level writing courses. The literacy courses and general education courses are taught by different instructors. I myself have taught the transitional writing piece paired with two other instructors. There’s no set content for the college writing, so all of the instructors could be teaching different material, using different books and giving different assignments. Unless there is a strong line of communication, I don’t know what material they’re teaching and vice versa. This indicates to me that we need to standardize curriculum more.
The success rates are great, but there are some interesting opportunities for improvement based on student satisfaction. Students are highly satisfied with the new corequisite college algebra and quantitative literacy model, and the students in the corequisite writing course seem to appreciate the extra time and guidance. Students have been dissatisfied with the corequisite literacy course, because they don’t feel that it focuses on the skills necessary to be successful in the general education. They don’t get the connection, so it’s still a work in progress.
I’m honored and humbled to become part of CCA’s network of content experts. CCA is doing work with institutions that would have been hard to imagine 10 or 15 years ago. The organization supports the people that do the work in a way that’s very important. A lot of great initiatives are unsuccessful at institutions because they’re too difficult logistically to deploy. CCA presents strategies in a way that’s very accessible to faculty and administrators and makes the implementation process feel less daunting without watering anything down. I look forward to sharing my experience and expertise with others in the field.