October 6, 2011
By Rebecca Klopf
Illinois' Lieutenant Governor comes to Rock Valley College to find out what's works to help student succeed. This is part of her statewide tour of community colleges. Rock Valley College is Lt. Governor Sheila Simon's 48th visit and her last. The focus here, changes Rock Valley has made to its math program.
Laurel Snyder, a mother of two, had not been in school in 7 years. She was told she needed five classes worth of remedial math before she could even take one at the college level. Normally that would have meant two and a half years of math classes because most colleges only offer them in 16 week courses. But RVC changed its program to eight weeks.
"If I had to take 16 week courses for all of those I wouldn't have been done with math by the time I was actually ready to graduate. I would still be working on math," says Snyder.
RVC Mathematics Chair Rodger Hergert says administrators found students do better in the eight week courses. He says the normal pass rate is about 50 percent of students in a 16 week remedial course. The shorter program has a 65 to 70 percent pass rate.
"We reorganized the curriculum so there wasn't nearly as much overlap. We still kind of spiral back to things from time to time but it's not the complete repetition of topics. And hopefully by being able to spend a little bit more time that first time around then they get better and are better able to persist with the course," says Hergert.
Illinois only requires three years of math for high school graduation. Lt. Governor Simon says remedial courses might always be needed. But students who want a college degree might be able to avoid them all together by not taking a year off.
"If you want to be in college, if you want to be ready for college you need that fourth year of math or you need to start your college math right now. There are any number of combinations that can work. But a vacation from math is not a good idea," says Lt. Governor Simon.
Rock Valley is also trying out a new program for students this who need remedial math courses before they can take one for college credit.
In most colleges, remedial classes are one size fits all. But RVC developed a course aimed at students who might major in something like history or art instead of a math based major like Engineering or Biology.
Hergert says the remedial class is not easier It just puts to focus on the next class students will likely take.
"The class is just as rigorous if not harder. They do some really intense problems in there. It's just that it's a different type of thing where you try to bring in a lot of real life applications. You try to make it a little bit more relevant as well," says Hergert.
The new remedial math program was presented to state educator last year. Hergert says his colleagues will present it at a national conference later this year.