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Heartland takes action on college readiness

September 28, 2016

Are students ready for college?

There were a slew of media reports after the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released the Nation’s Report Card. The results were telling.

In simple form, college readiness asks, “Is a student academically prepared to enter college courses?”

Readiness Numbers

The ACT reported only 38 percent of students from the class of 2016 met the test’s college readiness benchmarks in at least three out of four subjects (English, math, reading and science). Additionally, 34 percent of ACT test takers failed to meet benchmarks in any of the tested subjects.

A little closer to home, nearly 75 percent of community college students in the US need remediation in English, math or both.

At Heartland, the number of students in need of remediation is lower and has been getting even lower recently.

Heartland’s Approach

The College looked at everything from assessment to curriculum and pursued a handful of initiatives to combat the growing remediation trend and ensure students get placed in the appropriate classes.

Early Assessment

The first step was to engage our high school partners to undertake early assessment of college readiness so that remediation could occur in high school, before a student ever comes to Heartland. HCC’s College NOW dual credit program has been critical to that effort.

To enroll in the program, students take a placement test. According to Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Sarah Diel-Hunt, the tests have been immensely helpful for high schools to see where their students are. “They can diagnose and get students remedial help earlier if necessary,” she said.

Early Remediation

Sometimes schools even use HCC’s developmental curriculum for remediation. That way, Heartland can track the students’ progress. According to Dr. Rick Pearce, vice president for learning and student success, the process allows Heartland to place the student right where they left off if they transfer here.

Curriculum Alignment

College NOW also brought about curriculum alignment. Since participating high school faculty teach Heartland’s level 100 courses and early remedial education, they have a better understanding of what’s taught and expected at the college level. In other words, it’s helped form curricular connections.

Assessment Measures

Additionally, Heartland looked at the way it measures college readiness.  Diel-Hunt explains that instead of relying on one high-stakes test, the College utilizes multiple measures. This includes various testing agents such as the ACT, SAT and Accuplacer, as well as writing samples read by HCC English faculty. There’s also a reading diagnostic and the College is considering looking at high school grades.

HCC Enhancements

Steps are being taken to work with students who arrive at Heartland still needing remediation. “Should a student need remediation, we want to provide it in a way that allows the student to complete it at their own pace and in a context the student understands,” stated Pearce. With that, the College has implemented a co-requisite model for English where students receive remediation at the same time as credit coursework. Additionally, curriculum for career technical courses includes reading, writing and math in the context of the course and career pathway.

With the growing importance of a college credential or degree on the job market, “we want to help as many students as we can,” said Diel-Hunt. “That’s difficult if they start in need of a great deal of remedial coursework.”

The Results

These initiatives have helped …a lot.

The number of students needing remedial education when they walk through HCC’s doors is lower than what’s happening across the nation. Currently, Heartland’s number stands at under 40 percent of new students needing remediation in math, and under six percent for English or reading.

Diel-Hunt hopes to expand the College’s reach to more high schools within the district.

Written by: Becky Gropp