Envisioning Change to Better Serve Our Students

In fall 2015, I attended the AMATYC (American Mathematical Association of Two Year Colleges) Conference, focusing on a symposium on the Mathematics Pathways being developed across the country.  The problem has been identified roughly as follows:  Of all the community college students (nationwide) who place at least two levels below “college level” math, about 15% complete a college level math class within 2 years.  We can do better.  And many efforts have been explored nationwide.  The take-away from that symposium was that efforts proved successful, in those cases where the college was “mobilized to support the student.”  The challenge was for colleges to envision systemic changes that could be leveraged to better serve students.

One key feature of that support was integrating support services into the classroom.  For example, counselors would talk briefly with students during lab time or call them aside to develop or update ed plans.

Another key feature was scheduling assistance.  First year programs supported students by addressing the “paralysis” that the most vulnerable students experience when confronted with the myriad decisions needed just to register for classes.  One program director said she called up each student and asked a single question, “Do you want to come to classes in the mornings or in the afternoons.”  Based on their answer, she enrolled them.

Another key feature was some type of embedded algebra support:  either through co-requisite courses, increased classroom hours, or a lab component.

Another key feature was addressing the human side of the problem, tackling head on issues like deficit thinking and growth mindset.

This year, while on PDL, I have had two types of interactions with colleges.  I, myself, have gone through the process of applying to colleges and registering for classes.  I have a master’s degree in math and consider myself to be resourceful.  But I did not consider that process very easy and I sometimes got tangled up with things like prerequisite verification.  My other interaction was through my daughter, who went through the same processes.  My familiarity with academia allowed me to answer a lot of her questions.  Each time, I reflected on what a student might be experiencing if they had no one to help them with this navigation.

We value choice.  A lot.  But it’s possible that our own appreciation for choice leads us to put students in a position where they have more choices than they care to have…too many to even allow them to remain functional in our system.

It’s time for us to focus on the individual.  When a student enters our college, what do they have to do?  What decisions do they have to make?  To what extent do those decisions serve as a barrier?  How are we supporting students through that process?

I feel at times that our system is based on the assumption that an incoming student is a self-actualized adult who has a pretty good idea of what they want to study and how to navigate our system.  And that may be true of some our students.  But I’m sure that it’s not true for many others.  And based on that symposium of alternative math pathways across America, it seems that in order to better serve these students we need to seriously reflect upon our systemic assumptions and processes and ask ourselves how we can remove some of the barriers that are currently in place.  How can we envision systemic changes that could be leveraged to better serve our students?  What might that look like at Foothill College?


Immersion Style Learning

When a neighbor told me that her daughter was going to a dual-immersion (Spanish/English) elementary school, I experienced bewilderment (thinking “Why?”), followed by judgement (thinking “That doesn’t seem like a very good idea to me.”), followed by curiosity (thinking “They seem very pleased with their choice; I should find out more; maybe there is something to this.”)  I was unconvinced, but the experience created an opening and long story short, three years later my daughter started kindergarten at that same dual-immersion school.

Nothing in my 35 years had prepared me to comprehend immersion style learning.  It was actually a huge leap of faith fueled primarily by a single positive campus visit and the perception that the alternatives were worse (based on a single negative visit to each).  That was about 12 years ago and I now have an appreciation and respect for the immersion approach, mostly based on 8 years of having children in that school.

My education was systematic.  My education was a series of demonstrations.  Hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year.  My teachers showed me what they wanted me to do and then asked me to do it myself.  They encouraged, answered questions, and made corrections.  The chores I did at home were much the same.  “Do what I do.”  “Follow my directions.”  “Do it this way.”  I learned very quickly that there was one right way of doing things.  I had a vague knowledge that that “one right way” somehow depended on the teacher.  The more I did EXACTLY what I was shown, the more I got praised and rewarded.   I learned to look for patterns and search for understanding, not because that was suggested or taught, but because I needed a strategy; it was simply impossible to memorize everything.

So then, by the time I got into a college Spanish class, I was very analytical.  Identify the patterns; memorize the exceptions.  After completing my college language requirement, I could do everything that the teacher asked me to do, but I could not speak Spanish.  My daughter, on the other hand, shyly and proudly told everyone after a month in immersion kindergarten, “I speak English and Spanish.”

She had acclimated to the demands put on her.  She understood the simple directions that the teacher used everyday, and her vocabulary had grown significantly, through colors, counting, story time, and singing.  If the teacher ever got really stuck with a student, she would ask the child to explain in English what they thought she had said or she would ask in Spanish for a volunteer to explain in English what was happening.  The learning was not based on memorizing conjugations, but on using correct forms in daily classroom interactions.

Now I’m on Professional Development Leave, a math teacher looking for ways to connect with students and choosing Spanish Language Studies as one such connection.  As is frequently the case, I am realizing a second, unforeseen benefit.  Let me explain.

When I researched Spanish programs, I realized that the local colleges no longer distinguish between Spanish and Conversational Spanish.  There were 2 sequences of classes when I was young.  I think a person could have enrolled in both sequences concurrently, taking both a grammar and a conversation class.  In our local quarter schools (Foothill, DeAnza, CSU Eastbay) there is now 1 sequence, consisting of 6 courses:  3 classes in introductory Spanish and 3 classes in Intermediate Spanish.  When I signed up for the first class, I was surprised to find that it was so different from that grammar class I took 30 years ago.  It’s based on an immersion model!  Each week, I’m given resource pages with more vocabulary words than I can possibly memorize. (But I’m explicitly told I don’t have to memorize all of them.) Several short grammar exercises incrementally introduce some usage and the remaining exercises (video, audio, written, partnered work) provide opportunity to practice that usage.  I can’t always express my complicated ideas using the Spanish learned so far, but I can always at least partially express myself.  Before I went through this experience, I didn’t think that I could learn in an immersion environment.  But now I can actually speak and write in Spanish (and not just do trite little exercises).

The unforeseen benefit is the way in which this experience allows me to reframe mathematics education.  Mathematics education is systematic.  Mathematics education is a series of demonstrations.  Hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year.  We teachers show students what we want them to do and then ask them to do it.  We encourage, answer questions, and make corrections.  They learn very quickly that there is one right way of doing things.  (But wait, NO!  We don’t want them to learn that; it’s not true!)  They know, vaguely, that that “one right way” somehow depends on the teacher.  The more they do exactly what we’d do, the better their grade is.  (OK, on rare occasions we are charmed and dazzled by a student’s unique approach…)   The successful students look for patterns and search for understanding.  The students who haven’t developed these strategies think they have to memorize everything.

I recall how I couldn’t speak Spanish because I had very little practice and I was relying entirely on my head.  There was no internalization of the language.  This reminds me of students who can’t talk about their mathematical thinking because they’ve had very little practice.  This reminds me of students who can’t apply what they’ve learned because they’ve had very little practice.  This reminds me of students who are always in “recall” mode because they’ve had very little practice with “thinking” mode.  Their skills are in a box in their head, memorized facts and procedures.  There is no internalization of mathematical thinking.

Over the last several years I’ve worked with materials and pedagogies designed to provide students with experiences talking, applying, and thinking about mathematics.  I didn’t realize until I studied Spanish this year that those efforts are much like creating an “immersion style” of learning mathematics.  In my earlier years, “immersion” sounded scary, much like throwing someone in deep water to teach them to swim.  But now “immersion” sounds wonderful, conjuring up images of nurturing and support and “whole person” learning, where the learning is integrated and internalized and not based on memorization.


Messaging is so important.  It’s far more impactful than we want it to be.  We want to be understood for what we mean.  But sometimes words are inadequate for expressing our ideas.  Or if the right words exist, we may not find them and use them effectively.  Or we think and many may agree that we chose our words perfectly, only to find that misunderstanding ensues anyway.  Colleagues get offended.  “Camps” develop.  We take what we hear and impose a story or a meaning that comes more from our own experiences than from the speaker.  Take a modern catch-phrase, “meet students where they are.”  Some teachers are threatened by this phrase, interpreting it to mean that they have to systematically assess every student and then teach every students in their class differently, depending on their assessment.  Faced with what seems to be an impossible task, they condemn the notion as crazy, unrealistic, and unreasonable.  These feelings may drive a wedge between an excellent teacher and their profession and colleagues.

As ideas about teaching evolve, we want some gems to take back to the class.  Sometimes, an idea resonates and we can see its place within the framework of our own understanding.  Sometimes, we can’t see another person’s success within our framework of understanding.  This can become a problem when we feel like we are being told what to do.

A friend shared an article recently on the importance of creating an environment where everyone is free to create their unique magic in the classroom (as opposed to a system that requires everyone to follow a prescribed plan).  I think that such an environment at least partially addresses the messaging problem.  When it is expected that every individual is at their best when they’re being creative and creating their own unique magic, then successes shared in articles or in the lunchroom may feel more like points of interest and less like suggestions for improvement.

Take our course outlines for example.  They are supposed to guide us in our teaching and provide students and institutions with information about what students learn in a class.   I think that f they are well written, they should leave plenty of room for individual creativity on the part of the teacher.  If they are overly prescriptive, they may have the unintended consequence of stifling what could be a very good class.  I wonder, have you ever felt like a course outline got in the way of you doing your best work with students?

How Does Change Occur?

We are now in the 21st Century.  Several decades ago, academia, government and business started talking about the 21st Century.  What would be needed in the workforce?  What would education look like?  What would students look like?  Now it’s 2017.  17 years into the 21st Century, I’m not sure that we’ve made real significant changes to the education system.  I have changed what I do in the classroom, but the course outlines that are supposed to lay out what I teach haven’t changed much.  So I find myself changing my pedagogy and my thinking, but working with the same curriculum.  Year after year, success data shows us that the traditional pathway of Beginning Algebra –> Intermediate Algebra  –> Transfer Level Math is ineffective.  Only a small percentage of students navigate this pathway successfully.  And it is widely thought nationwide that this developmental math curriculum is a major roadblock to degree achievement.  That’s why the mathematical community has been working for many years on developing alternative pathways.  Several are being implemented nationwide.  And California is in the process of clearing the road for these new curriculums.  But what do we teachers do in the meantime?  What do we do with an outdated Course Outline of Record?  How do we function in a system that is slow to respond to the changing world and the changing student body?  How can we truly serve our students under these constraints?  I think a lot now about how I can interpret a Course Outline.  I ran an experiment last year wherein to better serve students, I used the alternative curriculum called Quantway, developed through the Carnegie Foundation.  To remain true to the Course Outline, I supplemented these materials with traditional curriculum.  That work led me to believe that I would have served them even better had I foregone the supplementation with traditional curriculum.  This belief is reinforced by the following quote coming out of the Dana Center at the University of Texas, Austin:

“After the New Mathways Project was implemented in Texas, 23 percent of students enrolled successfully completed a college-credit-bearing math course within one year, compared with the statewide average of 8 percent. Campuses that implemented the program with the highest fidelity to recommendations had 43 percent of students earn college credit in one year.”


So then, to what extent can I change the Intermediate Algebra Course Outline and still call it Intermediate Algebra?  And to what extent can I use my professional understanding of where we are and what serves my students to interpret the Course Outline in a way that might be seen as unconventional but support me to better serve student?  As I ponder these questions, I think about what happened in Texas in the above quote.  8% to 23% represents an almost 200% increase in the proportion of students who completed a college-credit-bearing class within 1 year; and 8% to 43% represents over a 400% increase.  I think that’s pretty compelling.

“Just Show Me What I Have To Do”

This is a somewhat common sentiment among frustrated math students…and frustrated teachers.  In fact, I think this may be a common companion to frustration.  Not always; sometimes we want to establish understanding.   But if we’ve reached the point of frustration, then we may just want to “move on,” “make progress,” or “find a solution.”

I am reading Claude Steele’s “Whistling Vivaldi,” in which he lays out his decades-long investigation of stereotype threat.    Although I have heard about stereotype threat and ways to combat it in the classroom, I am gaining a much deeper understanding from reading Steele’s book.  That is making me see similarities between myself (and my colleagues) and my students.  I am a very busy person.  I don’t know a community college teacher who isn’t.  It is only because I am on professional development leave that I am reading this book.  I don’t “normally” have time to read much.  But this experience is making me rethink that.  We always have choices.  Why do I normally feel like I don’t have time to read books—books that would constitute an on-going professional development?  Maybe I can re-prioritize my time once I’m back to teaching…but I don’t feel very confident about that.  It doesn’t FEEL like a choice.  I’ll have to think about that some more.

I am struck by how, as teachers, we want concrete take-aways to implement in our classrooms.  It is too hard, too big, too much to read all of the research and theory that would support a deep understanding of the sociological and psychological factors of teaching and learning.  I want the Spark Notes, and I don’t think I’m unique that way.  I want a short-cut because the long way doesn’t feel like a viable option.  However, the short-cut gives less value.  Lacking a deeper understanding and context, I may misapply the “take-away” or lack confidence in it.

I see this in my math students.  When the challenge feels unviable, my students look for a short-cut:  “Just show me what to do.”  But lacking an understanding of the foundational underpinnings or the connections, they may misapply the mechanics or lack confidence in them.

How then, can I scaffold the challenge to make it feel viable?  How can I structure the work to support understanding?  L. Dee Fink made some concrete suggestions at a Professional Development Day Workshop at Foothill College about a year ago.  They sounded good at the time, based on 21st Century Learning Outcomes.   I have his book, “Creating Significant Learning Experiences” on my bookshelf.  Maybe I’ll get to it next.

Students: No Longer “The Other”

I am taking Professional Development Leave this year.  One of my unstated goals is to reconnect with the role of student.  I’ve been done with school for so long, that until this year, I really no longer saw myself as a student.  Over the years, I came to see students as “the other.”   That mentality is commonplace in situations of violence.  It is as though our minds have to separate ourselves from the “other” in order to perpetuate a violence against them.  So then, I am concerned that over the years I have slipped into a teacher/student dichotomy.  That framing might be just the condition needed to not act in the best interests of my students.  That is what I’m currently reflecting on.

One struggle that I’m having in my student role is connecting online with a classmate to complete relatively short assignments due a couple times per week.  Last semester, I found a partner who had a lot of availability, because she was young, living at home, taking classes and volunteering one day a week.  We encountered a lot of technology frustrations, but overall it felt like a positive experience.  This spring semester, I have a partner who works several days a week.  Submitting assignments on time has proven difficult.   Sometimes I get zeros on those assignments (and others), not because I don’t do them or because I don’t learn what I need to, but because I don’t do them on time.  I’m OK with that, but I wonder what effect it has on my teachers.  I have a fairly complex life, with classes and family.  I don’t have to earn an A in my classes.  So I can take zeros without risking anything like admittance to another school.   But what about the students who don’t feel they can take that risk?  If their lives are fairly simple, then I suspect they can manage.  But what of the students who have complex lives, with jobs and family obligations?  When I set up my calendar to have assignments due 3-5 times per week, am I really supporting their workload management?  Or am I condemning them to a slew of zeros based on hard choices?  And when I require them to or request that they complete work outside of class in pairs or groups, am I adding to their growth and experience or am I further complicating their lives?

At this point, I have to say, “It depends.”  It depends on each student and on the current conditions/constraints of their life.  I find myself teaching in a system that is based on a “factory model” of education.  This one-size-fits-all model definitely rewards conformity.  But to what extent does it uplift and support the individual?   If I were in my own class, how would I be evaluated?  Do I have a system of assessment that supports growth or conformity?  Maybe this is part of what is meant by the phrase, “meet students where they’re at.”  I am so curious and excited to get back into the class with fresh eyes!

I Like Online Learning!?!

As a student, I loved quick-paced classes because the pace ensured I would never feel bored.  And if the pace got too quick, I could always ask the teacher to repeat something or answer a question that I had.   For me, school was filled with dialogue, with peers and with my instructors.   So when our department started offering online classes, I was glad that other people taught them.  I could not even conceive of how I could teach an online class.  But a few years back, one of my colleagues asked the calculus instructors to get certified in and use Etudes as our course management system in support of a grant she was running.   The Etudes certification class was an online class.  And by the time I finished it, I began to see how a person could develop an online community.  So when my dean was looking for someone to teach an online calculus class, I did it.  I spent many, many summer hours putting that class together.  It was my best work and it was really far from perfect.  There was a lot for me to learn there.

Teaching online DEFINITELY made my face-to-face classes better.  I didn’t anticipate that.  One quarter, I had a higher success rate in my online class.  I didn’t anticipate that.  I asked my online students why they chose online.  “I have small children at home;”  “It saves me driving to campus some days.”  I had anticipated those reasons.  What I didn’t anticipate included:  “All the other sections were full;”  “It’s the only way I can fit it into my class schedule;” “I like online classes.”

“I like online classes.”

“Hmm,”  I’d respond.  “What do you like about them?”  In general, students responded that they liked the freedom of schedule. They could go at their own pace.  They could work when they wanted to.  When they needed more info, they could access videos.  I heard them, but I never really understood until I enrolled this year in online classes myself.  The single greatest part of online learning for me is that I’m always working at my edge.  If something is easy, it gets done SUPER QUICKLY (no wasted time).  If something is harder, I can take all the time I need, without worrying about continuing to listen to the teacher and getting “lost.”

I didn’t anticipate liking online learning.  But I like it a lot!

Case Study Number 2: Moving Beyond Our Biases

We all have biases. We all process differently. Before you read on, I’m going to ask you to try to answer two questions. In the process, I hope you learn a little about one of your biases.

  1. Megan opens a bank account, depositing $50 that she earned taking photos. Each week, she takes $2 of her allowance and deposits it into her account. Write a model (equation) that shows the relationship between the balance, B, in her account and the number of weeks, t, that have passed. How much will be in her account at the end of 2 years?
  2. Write the equation of a line having slope 2 and y-intercept (0,50). Then use the line to predict the value of y when x = 104.

Which of the two problems is easier for you? Can you do them both? Can you do one but not the other? When you’re done reading, share your thoughts via a comment and I’ll reply to it!

Becky, from our last study learned a lot from her students once she started applying modern learning science to her teaching. One of the things that she learned was that they were very diverse in their mathematical thinking. Trained in algebra, she tended to approach problems in a very methodical way. But once she started asking open-ended questions, she started to see modes of thinking mathematically that had, frankly, never occurred to her. She started to realize how much she was biased towards her own training—both in how she taught students as well as in how she assessed them. It occurred to her that she often assessed methodologies rather than problem solving skill or conceptual understanding. That made her question the value of those methodologies a lot, which is something that she had never really done before. She also realized that she never really did much to TEACH problem solving skill or conceptual understanding. This made her rethink her teaching a lot. One of the things that happened once she started reflecting on her choices (rather than accepting them as prescribed absolutes handed down through the generations of educators) was that her instructional approaches and goals and her assessments diversified. And with that, she recognized a lot more talent and skill than she had been able to recognize with the narrower approaches, goals, and assessments that she had used previously.

For example, she was never especially interested or good at thinking about math in real-world contexts. That worked out fine for her, because she loved symbolic manipulation which was given really high priority traditionally, as opposed to contextualization. But once she started teaching contextually, she noticed that lots of her students were really good at solving problems in context. But those same students might be completely unable to answer an equivalent question, posed without a context. Consider those two questions that we started with. Mathematically, they are the same problem. Some people can do the first problem but not the second, some can do the second problem but not the first, some can do neither, and some can do both. Of those who can do both, some recognize them as the same basic problem and some do not. In a traditional class, any student who can do the second problem is likely to get recognized and rewarded equally for their abilities. Those who can do neither and those who can do only the first problem might be indistinguishable to the teacher, even though one has stronger mathematical skills than the other.

All of these experiences made Becky begin to question the use of algebra as a measure of whether a student was ready for challenging mathematical studies. Maybe the country was missing out on a lot of mathematical talent by requiring algebra proficiency up front as a prerequisite for all other math classes. Maybe those students who understand math contextually COULD learn algebra if it were taught in context, when it was needed. Maybe a just-in-time algebra approach could give a whole new sector of college students the opportunity to develop their mathematical skills. But that would require a department-wide shift in assumptions and expectations, which would require A LOT of work and a lot of cooperation and buy-in. Becky wasn’t sure how to make that happen.  She wondered if it were even possible.  Then she remembered! Those nationwide movements had been collecting data that suggested that students taught curriculum based on modern learning science could be better prepared for advanced study than those taught a traditional curriculum. Maybe that could be the starting point for the discussion that had to happen…

Case Study Number 1: A System Based on Biases

Becky was always really good at doing school. Two skills were especially helpful.

  • Memorization was almost effortless. If she could hear and see something, it was basically memorized.
  • Visual processing and abstract thinking was super fun for her. Symbols on a page were like pieces of a puzzle that could be moved around in limited ways. Figuring out those rules and learning to work within them was a lot like life was. Figure out what’s expected and do it.

Everything outside of school was gritty and hard and real and tough. But in school, she got to live in her head, where everything was clean and fluffy and imaginary and easy.

She made it look like her teachers were doing a really good job. She reinforced their whole belief system of how to learn:

  1. Show up
  2. Pay attention
  3. Do your homework

Nothing could be clearer. Wasn’t it obvious to everyone? Why didn’t everyone just do those three things?

Becky did so well and was made to feel so special that she became a teacher herself. And because she cared about her students’ success, she made sure she shared those 3 secrets to learning. Over the years, she sometimes got an uncomfortable feeling about her teaching, but she couldn’t really put her finger on what it was. And then one day, a thought occurred to her. For years, society had been telling young people that the only path to success was a college education. And boy! Had enrollments grown over the years! To encourage and accommodate all of that growth, the college had switched to block scheduling, had put in a one-way road, and had started offering online classes. The problem was, those new students were being directed to college even though they hadn’t necessarily thrived in school like she had. There was talk of educating “The top 100%.” She felt discouraged because her success rates were down around 60%. Then program review sheets came out and she saw that department-wide the numbers were even worse! She thought to herself, “I cannot live and work in a system that considers this acceptable.” She considered walking away. She thought about it a lot. She felt very alone. Then she heard that there was a nationwide movement among math educators to rethink the curriculum and pedagogy available to college students. What an opportunity! When she joined that movement, she met other people who felt as upset by the churn in the current system as she did. She learned about modern learning science, influenced by brain research, psychology, and sociology. And she started the work of learning how to use that in her teaching. And as she worked, she learned a lot from her students. And she learned that many other faculty in her department and across campus were very supportive and also interested in changing the system to better serve students, the local community, the state, and the nation. She learned that she wasn’t alone at all!

Helping Students Achieve Their Goals

What if instead of thinking about what a new student is proficient at, we think about how we can help them achieve their goals?  How would this be different than what we currently do?  Here’s a thought experiment:

Charles enrolls at the college. He declares a major that requires statistics. How can we decide whether he is ready for that statistics class? Traditionally, we’ve given a test or two and we’ve said, “Hey, if you remember the algebra you’ve studied, then you’re probably going to be OK in a statistics class.” And we were probably right about that. But were we right when we concluded that NOT remembering the algebra you’ve studied means you’re probably NOT going to be OK in a statistics class? And were we right when we concluded that algebra skill was a good indicator of whether a student is prepared to engage in “higher order thinking?”  Were we right when we told students to take a couple algebra classes and “call us in the morning”?

Is it possible that algebra is completely uninspiring to many people? Is it possible that in the past, we were willing to say that those who were uninspired were not “college material?” Is it reasonable that for decades, completion of intermediate algebra was the very DEFINITION of college-ready, mathematically speaking?  The numbers that I have heard vary, but the percentage of students who start in “basic skills” and complete a college-level math class within 3 years is VERY SMALL. So that path is proven unsuccessful at helping students achieve their goals. Some states have insisted that their community colleges not provide “developmental education.” Their premise is that if the student doesn’t know basic arithmetic, they can go to adult ed., but if they just don’t know algebra, then educators need to build and offer co-requisites to support those students in their college-level classes.

So let’s go back to Charles. If he places into beginning algebra or below, he has very little chance of completing that statistics class over the next 3 years. Can we offer him a better option? As a matter of fact, our math department has been working with the Carnegie Foundation for Learning for 6 years now…participating in a nationwide movement to develop, implement, test, and improve upon a new pathway that would allow Charles to immediately engage in college-level work, rather than going through the hazing process we call algebra. Since fall 2011, we have run this new option, called Statway, at least twice each year. And it was painful in the beginning. But from that very first cohort, the folks that taught it could see that some students who were not well-served by our traditional path could grow and develop intellectually in the new pathway.

One of the challenges of this work has been articulation. Understandably, the UC system has been reluctant to grant articulation without proof that the curriculum and pedagogy was effective. The CSU system approved it (temporarily) for articulation quite early because it saw the promise and wanted to try the curriculum and pedagogy out itself. They do research in those 4 year schools. And they have data suggesting that Statway graduates do better in the next statistics class than do graduates of a traditional intro to stats class. So now, just this year, the UC system is willing to articulate statistics classes that do not have algebra as a prerequisite. So now we have to figure out how to change the course numbering system to indicate that it’s UC transferable. And we have to nail down the details of that announcement. For example, do they mean effective immediately? Retroactively? Or at some point in the near future? And then, once we are perfectly clear on those details, we have to communicate all of that to counsellors and help them understand the options available to Charles and other students. Then, we need to provide the professional development to educate and prepare more teachers to teach this new pathway…the work goes on and on.

So back to the question, “How can we help Charles achieve his goals?” That depends on how prepared Charles is to jump into a traditional statistics class. It also depends on what we are willing to do as an institution to support him in that class. But asking the question is a good starting point. Working on improving placement is a good step in the right direction, as is asking the institution to consider new means of doing business. And why stop with Charles? What about Jenny, who needs GE transfer-level math but not necessarily statistics? What about Raul who doesn’t know what he’s going to major in but wants to get started with his education? Can we offer him a better option than we offer to Lyn, who knows that she needs to eventually study calculus? These are the questions we are working on. And they are all tied up with articulation, CID-Transfer Degrees, and development of multiple-measures. But if we have the fortitude to keep working on this, even as we teach a full class load, then in 2 – 4 years, we may find ourselves in a much better position to help our students reach their goals.