Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Students testify, bills heard

The Legislature is back in committee hearings this week and CTCs have been front and center. Topics discussed include multiple assessment and innovative curricula to help improve student outcomes, as well as diversity demographics on CTC campuses statewide.

Encouraging multiple measures for precollege course placement

The House Higher Education Committee on Tuesday heard testimony on Senate Bill 5712 from its prime sponsor Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle.

The bill requires the SBCTC to:

● Encourage colleges to use multiple measures to determine whether a student must enroll in a pre-college course including, but not limited to, placement tests, the SAT, high school transcripts, college transcripts, or initial class performance. Also requires colleges to post all available options for course placement on websites and admissions materials.
● Direct colleges to include information in admissions materials and websites promoting the different ways students can be assessed for placement into classes.

Kohl-Welles expressed long-standing concern about remediation at the post-secondary level, especially at the CTCs, and said, "Some students could benefit from a brush-up rather than spending a lot of time and tuition."

She described innovations underway for placing students into appropriate courses so they can progress into regular college-level programs:

● Self-paced classes or tutoring to allow students to show proficiency and move on.
● Students take pre-college courses tailored to their needs rather than several classes.
● Pre-college math integrated along with science
● Multiple measures to determine student placement in coursework, such as high school transcripts or SAT scores.

Kohl-Welles highlighted the recent visit by representatives of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to community and technical colleges to hear their success stories and challenges in preparing students for college-level work:

Everett Community College, where streamlined, self-paced math classes allow students to complete their studies faster. Free study sessions, facilitated by a trained tutor, boost the average participant's grade by one letter. The college also offers math-placement testing at some high schools so students discover whether they're prepared for college math and are encouraged to continue their studies.
Lake Washington Institute of Technology, which offers programs that allow students to move through multiple levels of pre-college English and math courses simultaneously, saving months to years of schooling and associated tuition. The accelerated math program enjoys a 93 percent success rate.
Lower Columbia College, where new pre-college English students study together in the same class, progress and earn credits at their own pace, and then move into the next level without having to go through a step-by-step sequence. The college also offers Integrated Transitional Studies (I-TRANS), which allows students to achieve more than one level of English or math in a single quarter.
North Seattle Community College students move through pre-college classes quickly -- and check off some of their college prerequisites -- by taking classes that combine pre-college English with English 101 and pre-college math with science. Many of the pre-college math courses are designed to take two quarters instead of three. In bi-weekly "Reflection Fridays," math and English faculty review students' progress and identify ways to help them succeed.
Tacoma Community College, where STEM students can take a specially designed pre-college math course that offers an introduction to pre-calculus rather than intermediate algebra. The college also offers "Statway," a two-quarter class for liberal arts and social science majors that fulfills the college-level math requirement and focuses on statistics, considered to be most relevant for many career choices.

Who takes pre-college courses?

Pre-college courses (also referred to as remedial or developmental education) allow people to brush up on English and math skills so they can enroll in college-level courses and earn certificates and degrees. Students in these classes have either been out of school for several years and need a refresher on high school-level math or English, or they recently graduated from high school but are not up to college-level coursework.

Twenty-three percent of all four-year university graduates in Washington took at least one pre-college class, usually in math. At Washington community and technical colleges, pre-college students make up 10 percent of all state-supported enrollments, more than half of whom have been out of high school for at least three years.

Link to testimony (begins at: 30).

CTCs serve students of color

During the same hearing, members of the House Higher Education Committee heard how community and technical colleges are helping students of color succeed.

Edward Esparza, SBCTC student services policy associate, testified about the important role CTCs play in educating this student population and shared data to that effect. "Community colleges are a major gateway for students of color in Washington to obtain a college education. It bodes true with the college mission, the State Board mission, to serve all that enter its doors."

Dr. Jeff Wagnitz, Highline Community College vice president for academic affairs, shared how Highline successfully modified programs to better prepare students in reaching educational goals. "[Highline Community College] did a fair number of focus groups and classroom conversations ... [students] had work to do before getting to [their] first general education or workforce course. It was creating pretty significant barriers."

Jason Latimer, Bates Technical College student, testified about how his positive experience at the Students of Color Conference led him to further participation in similar programs at Bates. Latimer is pursuing a facility maintenance engineering degree at Bates and a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) degree at Clover Park Technical College.

BophaPhuong Keo, Highline Community College student, testified that language was a significant barrier. Originally from Cambodia, Keo began her higher education degree track with ESL classes, successfully obtaining a scholarship. Next spring, Keo will graduate with an associate of science transfer degree.

Iryna Stakhov, Highline Community College student, testified that the Highline Transition Center helped her make a smooth transition from ESL classes to setting career goals. Originally from Ukraine, Stakhov's ESL classes helped her overcome a language barrier, apply for financial aid, and successfully participate in a Work Study program. Stakhov is pursuing an advanced degree in visual communications.

Link to testimony (begins at 10:30).

Regulatory relief bill heard

On Tuesday, the Senate Higher Education Committee heard House Bill 1736, concerning higher education operating efficiencies.

Prime sponsor Rep. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, described the administrative burden faced by colleges and universities required to submit duplicative federal and state reports.

Both bills would impact several practices in higher education and state agencies:

● Requires OFM to work with other state agencies on a comprehensive review of reporting requirements related to energy code building standards and greenhouse gas emissions, and make recommendations for coordinating and streamlining.
● Allow state colleges and universities to use or accept electronic signatures for human resource, benefits, or payroll processes that require a signature.
● Authorize the Student Achievement Council to enter into reciprocity agreements for online education with other states on behalf of Washington's public colleges and universities.

Barbara McCullough, Grays Harbor College vice president of administrative services, said their campus sustainability efforts are a priority and supports the need to reduce greenhouse gases. Facilities staff has been reduced during budget cuts, so the bill would bring welcomed streamlining.

Julie Murray, Office of Financial Management, requested the deadline for recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature's higher education committees be extended to 2014, instead of December 1, 2013. She said other public entities are also required to submit the same greenhouse gas and energy standards reports and suggested expanding the bill to include them.

Connie Broughton, SBCTC eLearning and open education coordinator, testified in support and said allowing the Student Achievement Council to work on behalf of Washington colleges and universities will reduce redundant administrative work for individual schools.

Presently, each college must enter into an agreement with each state — even if only one student from that state is enrolled — who wants to take one of their on-line courses. This one-to-one arrangement creates a lot of workload for relatively few students at a college. She cited the example of Pierce College's many military students, enrolled in courses in 46 different states.

Margaret Shepard, University of Washington director of state relations, spoke in favor of the bill on behalf of the Council of Presidents.

Its companion Senate Bill 5736 passed and awaits floor action.

Testimony on TVW (begins at 01:04:20).

Preview of next edition

The Friday edition of Legislative News will include a summary of additional committee action, details of the State Revenue Forecast, and other events impacting community and technical colleges.