Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Walla Walla Wows World
I find it interesting that there is yet another demonstration that prescriptive scheduling works with that population. Freshmen students in particular seem to want and need that direction. I suspect it is because we offer too many choices (compared to no choices in many high schools). They need a freshman class on choosing classes!
My tip for getting them to take math earlier rather than later is to ask them if they have forgotten a lot of the math they learned in HS over the summer. They always say "yes", which is then an opportunity to point out that the next math class will only be harder if they wait and forget even more.
(It is actually worse if they come in college ready. They could end up in developmental if they wait a year! "If you don't like it, take the two classes you need and get it over with.")
That said, it doesn't help that our developmental classes are so much like HS classes in many respects. I'm hoping that our plan to exempt them from some parts (based on a diagnostic test) and allow them to move at their own pace will change that classroom climate.
I've been doing several of those things for quite a few years. I think I got the idea for always pairing up a "what you want to do" class with developmental or even the regular old english and math classes from something I read here. I always make a point of telling them why I recommend that, and have them pace out those classes in their plan.
As an engineering school, we definitely do highly prescriptive scheduling; first year students get block enrolled into all of their classes. We're also quite selective though, so it's a different game.
I just checked and for our first year students, math isn't necessarily the bottleneck; it could be physics, circuits, or CS that is holding them back as often.
As a current Washington State resident, I am quite familiar with Walla Walla CC's work on improving success and retention. One other item mentioned in the article is that they spent a ton of time and money on customized tracking and advising software. I have attended demos of their software and left quite impressed. They are trying to amortize the cost of the software by selling it to other colleges; we have bought some modules, other CCs should look into it.
Of course, software doesn't retain students as much as the huge investment in personnel to individually track and interact with each incoming student. Any college who hopes to really move the retention needle has to make that investment first.