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Simon: More math equals higher college completion 

Lt. Gov. commends “Reinvention” campus tours, education panel

CHICAGO – October 4, 2011. In the final week of her Complete College Tour, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon voiced support for a City Colleges of Chicago plan to better prepare city youths for college-level work.

Simon said she wants more high school students to take four years of math, up from three required by current Illinois graduation requirements. Increasing high school math instruction could decrease the number of college students who linger in remedial courses and drop out of City Colleges or other schools statewide, she said.

This proposed City Colleges “Reinvention Strategy” would ultimately help the state meet its goal of having 60 percent of working-age adults hold college degrees or certificates by 2025, she said.

“Blurring the lines between high school and college can help keep students on track toward a meaningful college credential,” Simon said. “High school students who know the expectations of colleges can rise to meet those expectations and serve us all well.”

The Lt. Governor’s call for reform came during a panel discussion with City Colleges faculty and students at Malcolm X College, one of the seven Chicago colleges Simon visited Monday and today in her quest to visit all 48 community colleges across Illinois this year.

She was joined on the education panel by Alexi Giannoulias, chairman of the Illinois Community College Board; Gery Chico, chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education; and Perry Buckley, president of the Local 1600 of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

“High schools, community colleges and public universities must work together to create seamless transitions from one level to the next,” Giannoulias said. “Otherwise, our education system will continue to be a leaky pipeline that leaves too many students behind.”

The City Colleges’ Reinvention is a comprehensive program designed to review and revise City Colleges’ programs and practices in order to drive greater degree attainment, job placement and career advancement. One strategy to improve college performance is to make sure more incoming students are ready for the rigor of college courses.

This year, only 23 percent of ACT-tested high school graduates in Illinois met all college-ready benchmarks in English, reading, math and science. And more than 90 percent of incoming City College students require remedial courses in one or more subjects, which often tap into financial aid but don’t always count toward a degree.

City Colleges is working to strengthen its relationship with Chicago Public Schools by targeting graduating seniors for an intensive summer program designed to reduce the time spent in developmental education. It is also looking at new placement testing policies to ensure that students are enrolled in appropriate entry-level courses. 

Simon commended City Colleges for preparing a pilot program that aims to expand dual credit math courses for high school seniors at CPS. Students in dual credit earn high school and college credit at the same time, thereby accelerating their path to college level courses and credentials. Dual credit math courses are college credit courses taught by high school math teachers who hold the same credentials and use the same syllabi as math teachers at City Colleges.

“Lt. Governor Simon recognizes that community colleges have a critical role to play in ensuring people across our state are prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” said Chancellor Cheryl L. Hyman. “Her work demonstrates the state’s leadership on aligning community colleges around outcome-based goals.”

“Through Reinvention, City Colleges of Chicago is already working to dramatically improve outcomes for our students, and to shift the paradigm – from being a community college system focused solely on access to one committed to both access and student success,” continued Chancellor Hyman.

In order for the state to reach its “60 by 2025” goal, Illinois’ postsecondary institutions must increase the number of graduates statewide by 4,400 students each year, for a total of 600,000 additional graduates by 2025.

To do so, Simon says schools need to reform how they deliver remedial education and handle transfer students. She also serves on the state’s performance funding committee, which is creating a system to tie state higher education dollars to completion milestones and graduation.

“We have a funding system now that rewards enrollment, and we need to shift that to reward course completions, graduation and other markers of progress and success,” Simon said.

Starting yesterday and continuing today Simon visited the seven colleges that make up City Colleges: Richard J. Daley College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Harry S. Truman College, Harold Washington College and Wilbur Wright College.

Simon has now visited 44 community colleges on her Complete College Tour, which concludes Thursday at Rock Valley College in Rockford. She will report her listening tour findings to the Governor and General Assembly this winter.