Title V Team Bridges High School, College

El Vaquero Editor in Chief

Glendale College’s Title V team has been working toward easing the transition between high school and college with developments in the math and English collaborative programs on campus.

The team is in the midst of various “pipeline projects” with goals to build language skills in ESL students and develop math skills, attitudes, reading, writing and critical thinking skills for struggling students in an effort to help them understand what college requires for success.

The group holds meetings with area high school faculty members with presentations on the program in order to build partnerships with high schools for the success of entering freshmen at GCC.

“The high school teachers walked away from that with their eyes open,” said Lin Griffith, associate professor in the ESL department, at one such meeting.

The ESL department at GCC has been working to make progress with entering ESL students at the college.

This year’s goal has been to develop three pilot courses at Glendale, Hoover and Cresenta Valley high school based on the ESL 141 class offered at GCC. “We think since this course has been taught…some of those students should make some progress,” Griffith said.

Next year’s goals include an expansion of college-based courses within the Glendale Unified School District (GUSD) as well as the Burbank Unified School District (BUSD).

Increasing the success of math students at the college is also high on the agenda of the Title V team.

According to GCC math professor Kathy Holmes, last fall only 20 percent of students who took math placement exams placed into intermediate algebra – the level at which students are not required to take any prerequisites to begin taking transferable math courses.

An alarming 57 percent of students who take the math placement test last fall placed into arithmetic, pre algebra or elementary algebra – none of which are transferable. Fourteen percent of these students placed into arithmetic, 15 percent into pre algebra and 28 percent into elementary algebra.

This means 57 percent of students last fall placed into math courses that required anywhere from one to three prerequisite math courses before they could begin taking a math course that is transferable. A mere 23 percent of students placed into transferable math courses with 14 percent placing into pre calculus and 9 percent in calculus.

The math collaborative staff at the college has set up monthly meetings with BUSD and GUSD teachers and GCC faculty to discuss such data.

“They [struggling students] think because they’re on a college campus that they’re doing college work and they’re not,” said Holmes. “And part of our job is to get that message across.”

Despite the low scores on math placement exams, the 55 percent success rate at GCC is still above the statewide average of 49 percent. These numbers are lowest for students under 20 years old who’s success rate is at 46 percent as opposed to 58 percent for those over 30.

Holmes said the relationship between GCC’s math team and area high schools is improving. “These are the people [high school teachers] in the trenches and they’ve really given their time and energy,” said Holmes. The collaborative effort between the two levels of education has been developing since the fall of 2001.

Deirdre Collins of the math department at GCC believes the reason students place so low on the math placement exams is linked to a weak math requirement for high school graduation. Since high school students are required to take four years of English, English placement scores reflect that with 71 percent of students placing into college level English.

To help remedy the math problem, high school teachers and GCC math faculty are working on piloting a new math course to be offered to high school seniors that will help alleviate math concerns and prepare them for college-level math.

“For students who are not interested in taking any math, this is where this class is helpful,” said Collins. The class is designed for high school seniors to maintain their interest in math instead of stopping after their second required year is completed she said.

The English collaborative team is reporting good news from their college prep project which launched in 2000. This involved a college prep English course to be incorporated into the English curriculum for high school seniors. This course is the equivalent of English 120 at GCC and should students pass their final exam, which is graded by GCC faculty and high school professors, they can automatically register into English 101 at GCC without taking a placement test.

“The good news is that these students are reporting back to their high school’s that what they learned [in the college prep class] has helped them in their 101 class,” said GCC English instructor Francien Rohrbacher.

Eight area high schools including Hoover, Glendale, Burroughs, Burbank and Cresenta Valley have already implemented the college prep class into their curriculum totaling more than 1,000 students in the program. “They want to take this class because they’re hearing about the good things that happen,” said Rohrbacher. “Clearly the high schools are happy with this progress and we’re happy to hear that.”

Rohrbacher emphasized the importance of working with the high schools and to receive feedback while avoiding “…trying not to be the big bad college.”

The Title V team is determined to bridge the gap between high school and college and raise success rates of English and math students. “We’re all in this together,” said Holmes.