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The Developmental Math Challenge and Statway at LaGuardia – Part I

Statway: a Gateway to Graduation

I have been an assistant Professor at LaGuardia Community College’s department of Mathematics, Engineering, and Computer Science since Fall 2012. My background is both theoretical Physics and Statistics, and I have an extensive teaching and research experience in a wide range of areas and skill levels of Mathematics and Physics in countries like Colombia, England, and US.  I started teaching developmental math and Statistics in 2010 as an adjunct at Bronx Community College; there and then I was confronted, for the first time, with the challenge of teaching developmental level courses.

It is well known that the institutional profiles of CUNY’s community colleges are similar: large representation of minority groups, very diverse backgrounds, and notoriously challenging lives.  For instance, LaGuardia Community College has a very diverse population where students come from about 154 different countries and speak more than 125 different languages (see LaGuardia’s Institutional Profile).

As in many other community colleges, CUNY and nation-wide, students struggle with developmental skill courses, especially with developmental math. Only at LaGuardia, about 80 percent of the students require developmental skill courses out of which about 70 percent require at least a basic skills math course. Many students are trapped in the remedial loop spending long periods of time taking again and again basic skill courses and leaving college without any credits earned. A recent article in the New York Times featured the story of one of our students and his struggle with math (see Long Road to Graduation, NYT Oct 3, 2014).

https://youtube.com/watch?v=eW0ZxlAsurM

Nationwide the statistics are not better:

  • Over 60 percent of the nation’s 14 million community college students are required to take at least one developmental math course before they can be enrolled in a college-credit course (American Association of Colleges, 2014),
  • 80 percent of the students who are initially placed in developmental math do not succeed in any college-level math courses within the next three years (see Achieving the Dream, 2006 and Baily et. al, 2010).

In 2009, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancing of Teaching joined with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Kresge Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and Lumina Foundation to solve this problem. The video below clearly presents The Developmental Math Challenge, and how the Carnegie’s Pathways initiative has set its goal: “Reclaiming students’ mathematical lives”.

The Carnegie Foundation created an innovative and transformative program that is organized around two mathematics pathways: Statway and Quantway, the Carnegie’s Community College Pathway’s program aims to accelerate student’s progress through their developmental math sequence and a credit-bearing college-level course.

In addition to reducing the length of the path to credit-bearing courses, the curricula are designed to improve contextualization of the content and pedagogy of developmental mathematics. In their first 4 years of implementation in colleges, the success rate of students enrolled in Statway is “three times as effective in half the time” the traditional path (Yamada, Nov. 2014).

In January 2013, LaGuardia joined the Community College Pathway’s program. Being part of the program means becoming a member of the Carnegie’s Networked Improvement Community (NIC). The NIC was created in 2010 and launched in colleges in the academic year of 2011/2012.

The NIC is a scientific learning community that “joins community college faculty with Carnegie’s improvement specialists and national education researches. Together they engage in discipline inquiry using common conceptual frameworks, measures, and inquiry protocols to advance measurable improvements in teaching and learning.” (Berwick, 2008, Langley et al. 2009)

The network of colleges developing, improving, and using the Pathways: Quantway or Statway are part of the NIC where we test hypotheses and analyze local adaptations to ensure effectiveness, and over time contribute to the ongoing modification of Pathways. Currently, 58 colleges nation-wide are part of Carnegie’s Pathways NIC, serving approximately five thousand students. The table below summarizes the innovative programs developed, implemented and used by a college that is a member of the Pathways’ NIC.

Pathway Description CUNY colleges
Statway Two-semester pathway that replaces the traditional algebra sequence and allows developmental math students to earn college-level credit for statistics in a single academic semester. Statway integrates developmental mathematics skills and college-level statistics into a collaborative, problem-based class. LaGCC (2013)
Quantway Designed as two separate semester-long courses. Quantway 1 fulfills the requirements for students’ entire developmental math sequence. Quantway 2 is a college credit-bearing quantitative reasoning course. Each course is designed to promote success in community college math and cultivate quantitatively literate citizens. BMCC (2012)KCC (2014)

Here at LaGuardia, we have been implementing a unique version of Statway since the Fall 2013. LaGuardia faculty involved in this effort are Drs. Prabha Betne, Steven Cosares, Glenn Henshaw, Marina Nechayeva, Shenglan Yuan, and me. We have taught and/or have attended orientation workshops and forums lead by the Carnegie Foundation. Here we are uniquely implementing Statway as an Algebra-enhanced course that students take over the course of one term only (instead of two as in the original Statway program). This course is an intensive 7-hour per-week class.

Our outcomes from the Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 pilot implementation indicate that by offering this option for students, we are giving them a bridge to successfully finish their degree through contextualized math content and exposure to psychological interventions that improve their attitudes towards math and learning.

Part II of this blog post will present the details of our implementation of Statway at LaGuardia. I will describe the key components that make this curriculum different from any other traditional math course, e.g. productive struggle and growth mindset interventions. Part III, will present the main outcomes of this initiative and how we are working to scale the course and have it as a permanent offering for LaGuardia students.

Achieving the Dream. (2006c, November/December). Developmental math students and college-level coursework. Data Notes, 1(8).
Bailey, T., Jeong, D.W., & Cho, S. (2010). Referral, enrollment, and completion in developmental education sequences in community colleges. Economics of Education Review, 29(2), 255-270.
 Yamada, H. Nov. (2014) Community College Pathway’s Success: Assessing the First Two Years; Effectiveness of Statway.
 Berwick, D.M. (2008). The science of improvement. Journal of the American Medical Association299(10), 1182-1184.
 Langley, G. J., Moen, R. D., Nolan, K. M., Nolan, T. W., Norman, C. L., & Provost, L. P. (2009). The improvement guide: a practical approach to enhancing organizational performance (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
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