Training program is shown to improve basic reading and math skills, director says.
By Katherine Garcia
Improving developmental education was the focus of the Student Success Committee meeting Tuesday at Killen Center.
Melissa Sadler-Nitu, director of Alamo Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) at the Westside Education and Training Center, explained the I-BEST model of recruitment, assessment, college and career prep, college training with support classes, and job placement and college continuation.
I-BEST offers certificates in jobs from medical assisting to apartment and building maintenance to administrative computer technology while participants learn and improve their developmental math and reading skills.
For college and career prep, Sadler-Nitu said the work is relevant to a student’s field of study, such as writing an English essay about the student’s selected career.
There are 416 students who have completed the program or are continuing as of August 2014, and Sadler-Nitu hopes to have 4,848 students complete or continue by August 2020.
“If we can have success in this area, we can have success in any area,” District 5 trustee Roberto Zarate said of improving the sixth-grade reading ability of the program’s target students: 34-year-olds.
District 6 trustee Gene Sprague said he will continue to be an advocate for funding I-BEST because the program yields better results than developmental education.
“We are going to get a whole lot more for our dollar doing this than trying to put those 30 percent students through six years of developmental education that are never, ever going to make it.”
According to the presentation, only 15.3 percent of the lowest developmental English reading students passed a reading gatekeeper course within three years.
Sprague said compared with developmental education, the program opens the door because it gets jobs for students.
“You didn’t come here for six years of developmental education,” he said.
He said a good percentage of I-BEST students say, ”Hey, I can do more than I thought.”
He later said some students eventually become college-ready through developmental classes, but advised funds be decreased for developmental education and redirected into I-BEST, “a realistic program that works.”
Student trustee Jacob Wong mentioned the benefit of having two different options for students to get through the hurdle of passing developmental classes.
He said developmental classes are still successful.
Sprague said the current number of developmental classes is too high, and he suggested reducing the current number — three math and four Integrated Reading and Writing (INRW) — to two classes each.
District 5 trustee Roberto Zarate said the contextualized learning process of combining assignments with career research makes I-BEST successful.
Chancellor Bruce Leslie agreed with Wong, saying no program is a “silver bullet” to single-handedly improve developmental education scores.
He reminded Sprague the district already has reduced the number of developmental math courses from four to three, and instead of three reading courses and two English courses, there are now four INRW classes.
Sadler-Nitu said the program is meant to not only assess students in the second tier of the process, assessment, but through every step of the way.
“We work with students constantly to make sure they’re successful,” she said.
If a student has difficulty coming to school for reasons such as not having transportation or needing childcare, then help for them is found in the budget.
She said most barriers can be addressed, but students may have to either take distance-learning courses or wait a semester to attend class if they need more time to find a solution on their own.
Sadler-Nitu said she hopes to increase the number of courses and career options the program offers in the future.
She also said there was a waiting list.
She said for the first time, an adult who is a provider is going back to school and getting their basic education.
She said the program, located on the Westside Education Training Center, is not on all the Alamo College campuses, a goal she hopes to achieve by 2015.
She said there needs to be a spirit of sharing students between other adult education providers, which retain their students who would be a good fit for I-BEST to get their GED the traditional way.
District 2 trustee Denver McClendon said his concern is the student who wants to go to college but the assessment says they’re not ready.
She said until the program is physically on all Alamo College campuses, the connection will not be made or suggested by a counselor.
The I-BEST program recruits students from Uvalde, Eagle Pass, Laredo, Cuero, Beeville and Victoria.
Similarly, Ruth Ann Dalrymple, vice chancellor for academic success, gave a presentation on college readiness and MOUs, which are an agreement among all local high schools and the Alamo Colleges and the University of Texas at San Antonio.
She also said any high school student taking a designated college preparatory course in math or English can have the course count to the Alamo Colleges or UTSA as their student development requirement.
Dalrymple sent English Chair Mike Burton and math Professor Frank Maldonado to meet with a group of high school teachers for their respective courses to find out how to bridge the developmental gap.
Burton said the notion that a final grade of 75 in a senior English or math class automatically demonstrates college readiness and meeting the Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSI) is a low standard.
He said 80 percent of the final grade comes from their work on completing a professional portfolio and a formal assessment rather than their coursework alone.
A grade of 70-74 will give the student high school credit, and they will not pass TSI compliance.
“The high schools wanna graduate students from high school; we wanna make sure that students can be successful when they come into our college-level courses,” Burton said.