Rethinking Pre-College Math in Washington Colleges

This program developed and supported a coalition of colleges focused on improving student math achievement by making substantive changes in core educational practices.

The Re-Thinking Pre-College Math project (2009-2012) was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of a Student Completion Initiative grant to the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges.

The evaluation work on the RPM project has produced three distinct but related studies focusing on key aspects of the project (links to these reports will be available here as soon as they are published):

  1. Unpacking Professional Development, a study specifically addressing math faculty perspectives on the role and value of professional development in the project based on a set of in-depth faculty interviews (Asera, 2013)
  2. Pedagogy, Professional Responsibility, and Student Success, an overall project summary report focusing largely on the key elements of and lessons learned from the project’s major strategies and activities focused on faculty changes in core educational practices (Moore, Lardner, Malnarich & Davis, 2013)
  3. Evaluation Report, a formal evaluation report that includes more extensive evaluation findings and data analyses, including student survey data (Davis, et al., 2013)

Project Overview

While maintaining our overall emphasis on math transitions and college readiness the TMP initiated the last phase of TMP work, focusing on pre-college (developmental education) math curriculum at Washington post-secondary institutions. We partnered with the Washington Center for Improving Undergraduate Education to pursue an ambitious three-year program addressing these issues. This program developed and supported a coalition of colleges focused on improving student math achievement by making substantive changes in core educational practices (curriculum, instructional practices and teacher support, assessment) in their pre-college math programs.

Participating institutions were selected for the full project on the basis of a set of key parameters, including their willingness to commit fully to the work, assemble an appropriate team of faculty and instructional leaders, engage part-time faculty in the work, and where possible strengthen community partnerships (businesses, area high schools, university colleges of education). A key feature of these college teams was that they would include a solid commitment from the math department collectively, not just from individual math faculty.

During the first year of the program, faculty from the colleges in the coalition were guided through a review and analysis of a limited menu of “practices worthy of attention” across the core practices noted above. The goal was to build consensus around a set of strategies and then explore the implications of “going to scale” around adopting/adapting these strategies within a college and ultimately across multiple colleges in the system.

2010 Spring Workshop Team Workplan Activities

  • Create a comprehensive understanding of what is being taught and how it should be taught throughout the entire pre-college program by defining:
    • the core concepts that comprise the program as well as individual courses in the program
    • the key student attributes associated with success in mathematics
    • instructional approaches that include student engagement, complex tasks, and activities that support conceptual understanding.
  • Refine a set of Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) for each course within the precollege math program.
  • Develop a learning community of math teachers that is focused on professional development activities to incorporate instructional approaches that will increase student engagement and deepen mathematical understanding. Professional development activities would also include documentation and dissemination.
  • Identify a set of student attributes similar to those established in TMP that will be part of the expectations teachers convey to their students throughout their participation in the program.
  • Create a means of assessing student success and accurately identify deficiencies in how students are assisted in achieving that success.

2010 Spring Workshop Team Workplan Activities

Highline Community College is in the process of fundamentally redesigning the content and structure of its pre-college curriculum to accomplish three things:

  • Reduce the number of pre-college courses needed by most students from three courses to two courses
  • Ensure the mathematical content is truly relevant to student's career, academic and life goals
  • Actively help students develop college-readiness skills, including successful learning habits and attitudes

The grant will fund a lead-instructor model of instruction and faculty inquiry groups to institutionalize data-driven, evidence-based decision making about teaching practices that lead to high student achievement.

2010 Spring Workshop Team Workplan Activities

Everett Community College will tackle comprehensive reform in the pre-college math program through faculty task forces charged with implementing different targeted new curricular and instructional approaches to pre-college math:

  • Algebra Curriculum Efficiency (ACE)
  • Alternative Intermediate Algebra and Non-STEM Pathway Alternative)
  • Modular, Online, and E-Learning Resources (MOLE)
  • Pre-Algebra and Study Skills Curriculum Development (PASS)
  • Professional Development for Faculty (PDF)
  • High School Communication and Placement Issues

2010 Spring Workshop Team Workplan Activities

Program Plan

  • Reforming the NSCC pre-college math program to focus on the delivery of a contextually-based curriculum, by developing a Learning Resource Bank for pre-college math classes, and by piloting a year-long student cohort, entitled ALIGN* for success.
  • Develop and incorporate common first-day and end of-course assessments across precollege math classes.

*ALIGN: Algebra Learning Inquiry Group at North Seattle Community College

2010 Spring Workshop Team Workplan Activities

Program Plan

  • Replace four self-paced and four face-to-face pre-college courses with a sequence of 15 one-credit competencies.
  • Recommend the adoption of a single text for the entire pre-college curriculum.
  • Provide students with increased support and the ability to enter at the appropriate place in the curriculum.
  • Create a Math Center

2010 Spring Workshop Team Workplan Activities

Program Plan

Northwest Indian College will form a Faculty Inquiry Group (FIG) to include:

  • Full- and part-time faculty who teach pre-college math or;
  • Pre-college math faculty who have been consistently employed for long periods at extended campuses; and
  • Math tutors from the main campus.

Restructure the pre-college math sequence, beginning with elementary algebra, focusing on real-world applications and culturally relevant teaching practices.

2010 Spring Workshop Team Workplan Activities

Program Plan

  • Offering a revamped developmental education math 3-course sequence based on the CRS (College Readiness Standards).
  • The grant project deepens and extends the existing work by focusing on faculty support/development (through faculty inquiry groups) and on evaluation/assessment efforts.
  • The department also plans to extend the restructured curriculum to other modalities: Math Learning Center, Institute of Extended Learning, and online.