01/18/10 — Wayne Community College gets $20,000 grant to help students improve skills

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Wayne Community College gets $20,000 grant to help students improve skills

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 18, 2010 1:53 PM

Wayne Community College has received a $20,000 grant designed to better prepare students in its high school program to succeed in college.

The money will address a growing situation at colleges and universities, said Sonja Redmon, director of WCC's basic skills department -- students requiring remedial services in math, reading and writing before proceeding with the advanced college curriculum.

The problem is compounded for adults returning to school to earn a basic high school diploma, having already encountered obstacles along the way. For many of them, Ms. Redmon said, college has been "just a dream that they never thought possible."

The reasons why such students might not test well, or their scores are lower, varies.

"There has been a gap in their education, some of them are older, many of them are here because they may have had a certain learning difference and they may not have fit in the traditional school setting," she said.

Ideally, students will score well on pre-curriculum classes. When that is not the case, though, options like the basic skills program have to provide remedial classes to bring students up to speed.

Her staff works closely with those students, particularly in the area of math, she said.

"In order for them to enter our adult high school program or GED, their math skills must be a minimum of ninth-grade level," she explained.

WCC received the $20,000 grant as part of the Student Transition and Educational Preparation-Up, or STEP-Up, pilot project. It provides for the hiring of an instructor/counselor and purchase of instructional supplies.

Ms. Redmon and Karen Burnette, a lab coordinator in the basic skills department, collaborated on the effort before presenting their ideas to Dorothy Moore, grant writer at the college.

One of the ideas proposed was a course designed to ease students into the college atmosphere.

"We asked (WCC president) Dr. Kay Albertson for permission to give our graduates a tuition-free ACA 111 -- introduction to college curriculum program," Ms. Redmon said. "And we will develop with the grant monies, a specific ACA course specifically for adult high school and GED graduates. They will be given elective credit and college credit for taking the course."

The class will be offered three times over the next nine months -- in March, during the summer semester and again during the fall semester. While open to all students, class size will be restricted to 15.

To be eligible, the student must anticipate graduating at the end of the current semester or the following semester, be interested in going on to college and a commitment to completing the program, Ms. Redmon said.

Staff will follow students throughout and track their progress, she added. In addition, the counselor/instructor will work closely with them individually.

"Whether it's personal issues, transportation, child care -- how to deal with these roadblocks -- working with them in the learning lab and academic skills center so they can get accustomed to the setting, they'll also be brushing up on writing and math skills, getting ready to take the Compass and placement tests," Ms. Redmon said.

Students will also be encouraged to take the career readiness test, which comes with a certificate that will help them advance whether they continue on to college or pursue a job.

"It's a very tangible measure that they can take to an employer," Ms. Redmon said.

Among the goals of the state grant is to create a long-time offering, she noted.

"We're hoping it can carry over for another year and then we're hoping -- we just know it's going to be successful -- that it's going to be something we can keep as a permanent program," she said. "We're very excited about it because the basic skills students or literacy students or adult education students -- we go by a lot of different names -- they don't have the advantage of, like the middle college students, taking high school and college classes at the same time.

"We're just trying to make the playing field a little more level."

Ideally, she said, one of the outcomes will be improved placement test scores and an increase in the number of students pursuing a curriculum program in college.

At present, WCC graduates 100 students from its adult high school program each year and another 150 through its GED program.

While the STEP-Up grant is being launched as a pilot program, it just may be part of a solution for students struggling to do well at the secondary education level.

"It's just going to make it overall easier for an academic transition and just on a day-to-day basis," Ms. Redmon said.