Board pushes to reduce high-risk courses

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District 6 trustee Gene Sprague and District 2 trustee Denver McClendon discuss the issues surrounding high-risk courses and the capital improvement plan set for a May election March 7 at Killen Center. Photo by J. Del Valle

Board members question the district’s intent and method in eliminating high-risk courses.

By Zachary-Taylor Wright

zwright9@student.alamo.edu

Trustees debated the treatment and elimination of high-risk courses across the Alamo Colleges and addressed efforts to reduce high-risk math courses.

The Student Success Committee meeting was March 7 at Killen Center.

Thomas Cleary, vice chancellor of planning, performance, and information systems, said there were 27 high-risk courses as of fall 2015 at colleges in the Alamo Community College District; he said the majority of these classes are developmental courses.

According to the Alamo Colleges District progress update presented to the board at the March 7 Student Success Committee, the number of high-risk courses in fall 2015 was down from 36 in fall 2014.

Cleary said 21,000 students are enrolled in these high-risk courses and 15,000 students are enrolled in high-risk math classes.

District 6 trustee Gene Sprague said these statistics concern him and questioned what the goal and logic behind eliminating high-risk courses is.

Cleary said high-risk courses are classified as courses with exponential rates of students who don’t complete or pass the course; he said high-risk courses are eliminated by ensuring students receive a passing grade and avoid dropping.

District 8 trustee Clint Kingsbery asked what the ideal progressive grade rate is for the district and how the board and administrators plans to address high-risk math classes that don’t exceed a 75 percent progressive grade rate.

According to the Alamo Colleges progress update, the preliminary progressive grade rate for fall 2016 is 78.5 percent, which is down from 79.2 percent in fall 2015.

Cleary said there is no “magic number” for progressive grade rate, but the district would, of course, like to see all students receive a passing grade.

Kingsbery questioned if it was a realistic goal to eliminate all high-risk courses, saying it was an impossible task without granting all students a passing grade.

Kingsbery charged the board with determining what the ideal progressive grade rate and number of high-risk courses is for the district; he asked if a 70 percent progressive grade rate was adequate or if a 60 or 50 percent progressive grade rate was acceptable.

Jo-Carol Fabianke, vice chancellor of academic success, said math faculty across the district has worked with students to make sure they do not take math classes that aren’t required by their degree.

Fabianke said administrators and faculty across the colleges have discussed what academic support students might need to be successful, such as mandatory lab time or mandatory one-on-one time with instructors.

Sprague resolved that there were two ways to reduce the number of high-risk courses; he said the number could be reduced by improving the success rate of students who pass the course or preventing students from taking courses they shouldn’t.

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  1. I am not sure what some of these high risk math classes are, but as a Math Major transferring to UTSA sometime in the future, I do not want to be given a passing grade just so that I don’t drop a course. A Professor at UTSA once told me, the biggest problem with students dropping out of higher level math courses is that the student does not have a firm foundation on the basics. To give a passing grade just for the sake of the grade is not beneficial to the student.

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