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Lt. Governor Simon visits three north suburban colleges 


Complete College Tour continues at Oakton, McHenry and Lake County

DES PLAINES – June 27, 2011. Acting as the Governor’s point person on education reform, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon visited three suburban Chicago schools today to learn about their efforts to improve math instruction and help more students graduate on time.

Leaders at Lake County, McHenry County and Oakton community colleges pointed to their new high school “bridge,” tutoring and early intervention programs as ways they are working to increase the proportion of students who earn meaningful degrees and certificates.

If successful, these initiatives could be models for other colleges that are working to meet the state’s college completion goal, Simon said. Illinois leaders want to increase the proportion of working-age adults with college degrees or certificates to 60 percent, from 41 percent, by 2025.

“Nearly two-thirds of all jobs in the future will require a college certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree, but at today’s pace less than half of our workforce will ever achieve that level of education,” Lt. Governor Simon said. “We must work together to reform our higher education system so that our students are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Simon is touring each of the state’s 48 community colleges this year to promote the completion goal and observe how administrators and educators are working to achieve it. On Monday, she met with administrators and faculty at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, McHenry County Community College in Crystal Lake and College of Lake County in Grayslake, the 23rd stop on her tour.

Simon showed particular interest in the schools’ attention to remedial math instruction. Statewide, 21 percent of community college students enrolled in at least one developmental course last year, most frequently math. These courses count against financial aid, but not toward degrees or certificates, which can delay or hamper student completion, she said.

Oakton Community College

Oakton Community College is working with students who need developmental math through a new program, ROADMath, funded through the National Center for Academic Transformation’s “Changing the Equation” initiative. Students spend at least one hour each week in a math lab where they use interactive computer software to practice skills, and can receive instant, one-on-one help from faculty and volunteer tutors that staff the lab. Oakton is one of 38 institutions nationwide participating in the program, and preliminary research has shown that schools implementing this initiative can expect to see successful completion of pre-college math increase by more than 50 percent.

“Oakton's commitment to the re-design of teaching and learning math through the ROADMath program reflects our understanding that the ability to progress to and through college-level math is the most significant barrier to student success and attainment,” said Oakton Community College President Peg Lee.

McHenry County College

In the past five years, more than half of the students at McHenry County College enrolled in developmental math. To reduce this need for remedial classes, MCC is developing a summer bridge program where high school and college faculty teach side-by-side to better align their coursework and ease the transition to college.

“It is my vision for McHenry County College to be the leading community college in Illinois. Leading in the number of students who complete their certificates and degrees; leading in the quality of the educational experiences students enjoy; leading in the strategic partnerships in which the college engages; and leading in establishing programs that will enhance the economic viability of the county,” McHenry County College President Vicky Smith said.

College of Lake County

College of Lake County educators are focusing on “momentum points” – or the various milestones along a student’s path to degree and certificate completion – so they can intervene at the first indication of problem and adapt resources to student’s needs. Strategies currently in place already seem to be showing some success. The fall to fall overall persistence rate, for example, increased from 46 percent in 2008 to 49.6 percent in 2011, while retention in developmental math classes increased from 77.7 percent to 84 percent over the past four years.

“The College of Lake County is expanding beyond its accessibility mission to focus on student completion,” said College of Lake County President Jerry Weber, the current leader of the Illinois Community College Board Presidents’ Council. “We know this is a complex challenge, and we need to tackle it on many fronts — curriculum, teaching practices and active support for students, for example. We’re going to be trying a number of approaches, based on the best research, and most of all, we’re going to hold ourselves accountable by setting high goals and tracking our results."