Has Complete College America (CCA) collaborated with the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) to create a great solution … or, have they inflicted an invalid model on the students of the state? I suggest that “data” will not answer this question. #CCA #CorequisiteRemdiation
To summarize some key features of the Tennessee plan in mathematics, implemented state-wide this fall (2015):
- All students are placed in to college-credit mathematics
- If the ACT Math score is below 19, that college level math course will be statistics or quantitative reasoning
- If the ACT Math score is below 19, the student is required to enroll in a co-requisite ‘support’ course
- This co-requisite support course involves all developmental math learning outcomes
These elements are taken from a TBR memo (http://www.pstcc.edu/curriculum/_files/pdf/cdc/1415/Features%20of%20Corequisite%20Remediation%20-%20Memo.pdf)
From what I can see, actual practice is pretty close to this plan … learning support classes are paired with a QR course and an intro statistics course (but not college algebra or pre-calculus). The learning support courses list topics from arithmetic, algebra, geometry and statistics. I noticed that the QR courses tend to be more of a liberal arts math course — set theory, finance, voting, etc (the course is called ‘contemporary mathematics’). In the 4-year college setting, this type of liberal arts math course is usually offered without any math prerequisite.
The initial data from the Tennessee pilot look very good; in fact, my provost is smitten with the Tennessee program, and wants us to consider doing the same thing. I think the plan will “work” fairly well in Tennessee because of the non-symbolic nature of their QR course (intro statistics is notoriously non-symbolic, in the algebraic sense) … and the fact that they block students from STEM. [They also had an inappropriate prerequisite on the non-STEM courses; see below.]
In Michigan, we have tried to establish 3 paths in math … college algebra/pre-calculus, statistics, and QR. For statistics and QR, we have established a ‘beginning algebra level’ prerequisite (algebra or math literacy). This level maps roughly to an ACT math score of 17, and we require more algebra in my QR course than in the Tennessee course. When the Tennessee plan ‘works well’, part of that is due to the fact that students never needed any remediation for stat or QR if their ACT math was 16 to 18.
In other words, the good results from the co-requisite pilot is due, in significant part, to the math prerequisite for college level courses. ACT math = 19 (the Tennessee cutoff) is a bit low for college algebra, but it is too high for statistics and QR (even if the QR is more algebraic, like mine). Tennessee could have achieved the benefits for about 30 to 40% of their students by changing the prerequisite on two courses to be more realistic; they had established a ‘intermediate algebra’ prerequisite for all college math when that is not appropriate. Changing the prerequisite would have helped many of the students without requiring them to take another class.
The problem we face is not that there are ‘bad ideas’ being used; the problem is that policy makers are evaluating ideas at a global level only, when the meaning of any statistical study is derived from analysis done at a fine-grain level. Aggregated data is either useless or dangerous, and ‘aggregated’ is all policy makers consider.
CCA says “the results are in”. Nope, not at all … we have some preliminary data about some efforts, which are not necessarily showing what the aggregated data suggests.
Join Dev Math Revival on Facebook: