Author Archives: Corinne Arraez



Innovation in Developmental Education: The Landscape and the Locus of Change

In the third of eleven PACE Working Papers, W. Norton Grubb et al, continue their analysis of basic skills education in California Community Colleges.

Community colleges are full of innovation in developmental education, and some of these have the promise of changing the “remedial pedagogy” that can be so ineffective. In this working paper the authors review six kinds of innovations: (1) the efforts of individual practitioners, which can be found in many colleges but which reach very few students; (2) the developments in limited numbers of departments that have come together, under particular conditions, to create their own alternative pedagogies; (3) learning communities and linked courses, unfortunately less common than the authors had hoped; (5) reforms following K-12 initiatives, specifically Reading Apprenticeship and the writing process methods of the National Writing Project; (6) the formation of Faculty Interest Groups to stimulate faculty discussions that might in turn lead to reforms.

There is, then, no dearth of good ideas about how to improve developmental education, though the scale and thoroughness of these innovations vary enormously. The conditions that nurture innovations are also critical to their success, and we uncovered one pattern — innovation from the middle, with the joint efforts of senior-level faculty and middle-level administrators — that seems necessary for widespread reform.

Innovation in Developmental Education: The Landscape and the Locus of Change

October 7th Podcast: The Case for Increasing the Priority of Community College Career Technical Education Programs

Nancy Shulock, Executive Director; Colleen Moore, Researcher; Jeremy Offenstein, Researcher; Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy (IHELP), Sacramento State.

The career technical education (CTE) mission of the California Community Colleges is a vital part of the agenda to increase college completion and shore up economic competitiveness; yet this area of college academic programming gets too little emphasis and support. There is growing evidence of high market value of certificate and associate degree programs in select areas. There is also evidence that career-oriented programs can increase student motivation and improve outcomes, helping to meet workforce, equity, and productivity goals for California postsecondary education. Yet the attention given to CTE has not matched that given to the junior college transfer mission or to developmental education.

This session reviewed the evidence produced to date in a multi-year research agenda on community college CTE. IHELP researchers documented the high student interest in CTE along with the very low numbers of certificates and associate degrees awarded. They summarized the results of a system-wide inventory of CTE programs, by college, that suggests the need for far more attention to developing coherent program structures that deliver value to students and employers. They also discussed some of the challenges facing the colleges presented by the organizational structure around the CTE and workforce development mission and drew some contrasts with other states that have assigned a higher priority to the CTE mission.

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December 9th Seminar: Expanding College-and-career Pathways for High School Students. What Does it Cost?

December 9
David Stern, University of California, Berkeley
Expanding College-and-career Pathways for High School Students: What Does it Cost?

To improve the preparation of California high school students for postsecondary education and careers, in 2006 the James Irvine Foundation launched a major initiative to develop what is now called the Linked Learning approach. The Foundation asked PACE to inform this effort by gathering evidence on the cost of Linked Learning programs. This seminar presents the results.

The Linked Learning strategy is based on previous studies, mainly on evaluations of career academies. Prior research found that combining academic and career-technical coursework in a small-school setting, with work-based learning related to classroom instruction, can produce positive outcomes for students during and after high school. The focus of this seminar is on costs, not on outcomes. David Stern of the University of California, Berkeley, will discuss how the study’s authors attempted to measure the actual resources that go into the programs, rather than relying on administrative budgets; focused on incremental rather than total costs; and distinguished between start-up and ongoing costs.

How Diverse Schools Affect Student Mobility: Charter, Magnet, and Newly Built Campuses in Los Angeles

In a new PACE Working Paper, Luke Dauter and Bruce Fuller, University of California, Berkeley, explore “How Diverse Schools Affect Student Mobility: Charter, Magnet, and Newly Built Campuses in Los Angeles.” Achievement often suffers when families or students change schools. Yet pupil mobility is now encouraged in urban districts like Los Angeles, as mixed-markets of charter, magnet, and pilot schools sprout. Over 60 new facilities were opened as well during the 2002-2008 period, thanks to $27 billion in school construction mounted by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). This paper reports on the likelihood that students exit their school mid-stream, before completing a grade cycle or graduating. The authors find that African American and White students were more likely to exit their school, compared with Latino, non-English speaking, and foreign-born students, yet students attending overcrowded schools – often situated in low-income Latino neighborhoods – exited at higher rates. Charter and magnet school students left their schools at much lower rates, compared with peers in regular schools, after taking into account family background. As LAUSD opened new high schools, pupil mobility slowed markedly. The authors also found that Latino students were more likely than Black or White peers to move to a newly built school, rather than entering a charter or magnet school, likely due to the district’s commitment to relieve overcrowding in L.A.’s most densely populated communities.

How Diverse Schools Affect Student Mobility: Charter, Magnet, and Newly Built Campuses in Los Angeles

Teacher Stability and Turnover in Los Angeles: The Influence of Teacher and School Characteristics

In a new PACE Working Paper, Xiaoxia A. Newton, Rosario Rivero, Bruce Fuller, and Luke Dauter, University of California, Berkeley, investigate the effects of teacher characteristics and school context on the timing of teachers’ decisions to exit schools where they teach. The two-level discrete-time survival analysis framework allows for simultaneous examinations of who exits, when, and under what conditions. Their results for a large sample of teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District, observed from 2002-03 to 2008-09, affirm the importance of school context, such as type of school (e.g., charter) and school organizational characteristics (e.g., teacher-students racial match) above and beyond individual teacher characteristics and qualifications. In addition, differences in the relationship between some factors and teacher turnover are observed between elementary and secondary teachers.

Teacher Stability and Turnover in Los Angeles: The Influence of Teacher and School Characteristics

Basic Skills Instruction in Community Colleges: the Dominance of Remedial Pedagogy

In the second of eleven PACE Working Papers, W. Norton Grubb et al, continue their analysis of basic skills education in California Community Colleges.

A previous working paper argued, that, to understand basic skills education, it is necessary to observe classrooms to see what the “instructional triangle” involving the instructor, students, and content is like. This working paper presents the results of observing classes in 13 community colleges. It starts with a conceptualization of instruction, distinguishing behaviorist teaching, constructivist teaching, and hybrid teaching that combines the two (as well as several other dimensions of quality), and provides various reasons why hybrid or constructivist teaching is likely to be more effective than behaviorist teaching.

One notable feature of remedial classrooms is the consistent encouragement and support of students. Sometimes this takes the form of support classes or Student Success courses, but often it is simply part of common instructional practice.

However, the majority of basic skills classes follow what we call remedial pedagogy — drill and practice on sub-skills, usually devoid of any references to how these skills are used in subsequent courses or in adult roles. Remedial pedagogy takes different forms in math, reading, writing, and ESL (where it is least common). Unfortunately, remedial pedagogy violates many of the precepts of effective instruction presented in the first section of this paper, so there are reasons to think that this approach is partly responsible for the lack of success in developmental education.

Fortunately, there are many alternatives to remedial pedagogy, some of which are outlined in this paper and many of which are further developed in Working Paper 3.

Basic Skills Instruction in Community Colleges: The Dominance of Remedial Pedagogy

Understanding the “Crisis” in Basic Skills: Framing the Issues in Community Colleges

In the first of eleven PACE Working Papers, W. Norton Grubb et al, frame the issues surrounding basic skills instruction in California Community Colleges.

While increases in remedial education (or basic skills instruction or developmental education) have taken place at several levels of the education and training system, there are reasons for thinking that the issue is particularly acute in community colleges. This introductory working paper divides the problem into two. The first is the high proportion — perhaps 60 percent for the country, and 80 percent in California — of students entering colleges who assess into developmental courses. This can be explained by the pattern of dynamic inequality in American education, where inequalities among students increase as they move through the system.

The second problem arises from the evidence that students entering a remedial trajectory are unlikely to move into college-level work, so remediation has become a serious barrier to success for many students. Unfortunately, like other second-chance efforts, basic skills instructions often works under difficult conditions, and there are many hypotheses about why success rates in basic skill are not higher — most of which will be examined in this series of papers.

Since developmental education is first and foremost an instructional issue, this series of papers rests on a conceptual foundation focusing on the triangle of instruction, considering the instructor, students, and content within a set of institutional influences. The underlying research for these papers involves classroom observation, and interviews with instructors and administrators, to understand both classroom settings and the institutional setting. This framing paper then introduces the subjects for remaining papers in the series.

Understanding the “Crisis” in Basic Skills: Framing the Issues in Community Colleges

June 15 Podcast – The CSU Crisis and California’s Future

At this event, Patricia Gándara and Gary Orfield, Co-Directors, The Civil Rights Project at UCLA and Kimberly King, Assistant Professor, California State University, Los Angeles, presented research findings on a series of reports designed to analyze the impact of fiscal cutbacks on opportunity for higher education in the California State University system (see article on the research series in Diverse Issues in Higher Education). CSUs educate a greater number of Latino and African American students, enroll a much larger undergraduate student body than the University of California system overall, and many CSU students are first-generation college students struggling to get an education in difficult times. Representatives from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, California Senate, and Postsecondary Education Commission open the discussion pertaining to the  impact upon students and the future of the State; improving access by removing barriers to CSU education; meeting the financial needs of aid-eligible students; and understanding the impact to CSU faculty and staff.

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