LAKEWOOD, Wash. – A key piece of Clover Park Technical College’s transition to the Guided Pathways education approach involves redesigning math instruction to better support student success. That effort received a significant boost this week when College Spark awarded the college a supplemental grant worth nearly $150,000 over three years to support the math redesign process.
While the traditional math structure uses third-party assessment tools to determine placement, that structure often leads to a significant percentage of students being assigned to remedial math courses that unnecessarily delay their educational goals. The Guided Pathways model seeks to eliminate the developmental math pathway and instead place students in college-level math earlier in the process with supports in place to help them succeed. This grant provides funding to help CPTC implement both changes in the placement process and supportive co-requisite courses to assist students.
“Clover Park made a bold commitment to eliminating developmental math when we received the Guided Pathways grant, and these resources will help us realize that ambitious goal in order to improve our student outcomes,” CPTC Vice President for Strategic Development Dr. Tawny Dotson said. “As we redesign how we deliver education at Clover Park through Guided Pathways, we want to be intentional in finding ways for all students to succeed, more quickly. This is an example of realizing a challenge in students’ journey and finding ways to remove barriers to graduating and finding meaningful employment.”
The grant application process began in the fall, and CPTC Director of Institutional Research and Grants Samantha Dana and Dean of Instruction for Academics Dr. Judy Loveless-Morris put together the college’s proposal. The 15-page document highlights an expansive plan to create a holistic placement process that involves one-on-one collaboration between college advisers and students to determine the best math placement as well as contextualized co-requisite courses to ensure students receive the support they need to understand the necessary math concepts and apply them to their program of study.
“We’ll be providing this mandatory supplemental instruction so that students can go right into the college-level math and get the supports that they need to be successful in it,” Loveless-Morris said.
While the contextualization and co-requisite creation will take some time to implement, the college has already been hard at work on the placement process and plans to pilot the new structure later this spring. The biggest step will be an all-new self-placement assessment that provides students explanations for questions they answer incorrectly and information about which math course corresponds with each question. This will allow students to discuss their results with an adviser and make an informed decision about which math class to take.
“People usually focus on the instruction, but there’s a whole piece that comes before that,” Loveless-Morris said. “We’re looking at how students get onto the pathway and refining that process, and then we can make sure the instruction itself is contextualized for the programs.”
The new placement process will be implemented at CPTC’s Lakewood and South Hill Campuses and will impact more than 1,500 students per year. The grant funding will assist with the creation of the assessment and the development of the contextualized co-requisite courses, which will be implemented in the second and third year of the grant. These efforts follow academic studies that have shown that self-placement resulted in more accurate placement, contextualized math courses led to greater student success, and students placed in co-requisite support courses passed math and graduated at higher levels.
“This means that students will be engaged in the math process, hopefully reducing their anxiety, but also that they will get appropriate math training for their program,” Loveless-Morris said. “There is this idea that we’re trying to reduce the rigor, but that’s not the case. It’s really about our institutional responsibility to help students succeed.”
Part of the goal of this grant is to be an education front-runner that can lead the way for other institutions. As CPTC pilots and implements these new structures, the college will be able to measure their results and continually make adjustments throughout the three-year term of the grant. Eventually, the process will be able to be replicated elsewhere.
“The hope is that the work we do here can be shared out to other colleges and start to really make the entire process seamless for any student in our system, especially at the technical colleges,” Loveless-Morris said.