'97/'98 DE Initiatives: Working Plans for Willing Students

by Tom Ott

On August 10, The Office of Developmental Education issued “Initiatives for Academic Year ’97/’98.” Following is a preliminary report on the progress of those initiatives.

Academic Programming

First among many important initiatives has been the development of carefully designed educational experiences intended to provide students access to fully credited college courses and enhanced instruction.

The Gateway Program

which links a DE reading and writing course for students with “upper end” reading scores with a fully credited college course and requires the tightest of collaboration such that the English faculty member teaches to the content of the credited course, expanded this Spring semester from an offering of History 120 and 103 at B-Level CAP to include Music 120 at A-Level CAP. While longitudinal research must be conducted to see what impact this program will have on students’ progress, early indications, both anecdotal and statistical, are that students who make the effort necessary to succeed benefit from this configuration of courses. For Fall ’98 in addition to the above courses we will offer both ECE 131 and Biology 106 as part of the Gateway experience.

In addition to Gateway, Bill Straff and Dot French, both of whom are making use of Academic Systems software, and Elizabeth Cantafio engaged their students in a 28 week experience. While the Spring semester has not yet concluded and a proper evaluation cannot yet be made, the benefits of this arrangement seem obvious. A more formal approach to an academic year experience at both A & B-levels of CAP as well as DE Math is planned for ’98/’99.

Also, in Spring ’98 the first Freshman Orientation Seminar (FOS 101) was introduced in Developmental Education. This one credit course, written by Carmen Colon, Susan Tobia, Jon Brown, Shawnya Bryant, and Brenda Hunt, is designed to acclimate students to the rigors of collegiate study and to make them aware of the resources available at the college. For Fall ’98 three sections of FOS 101 have been linked to A-Level CAP and two to B-level, with five additional sections being scheduled as independent offerings. It is clear that FOS 101 is key to accelerating students’ acclimation to the rigors and purpose of collegiate work, and it is expected that over the next two years this course will become central to our Developmental Education efforts.

In addition to the above, we have begun the process of unlinking content-based courses where tight collaboration is not in evidence so that these offerings may be made available to a greater number of students and have moved “0” level courses such as English 095 and Psyc 095 to A-level to better afford that population a greater access to full-time rostering and to provide more flexibility within B-level for experiences such as Gateway.

Further, in cooperation with Wendy Blume, Curriculum Supervisor for Culture, Science and Technology, and funded through that curriculum, we are able to provide supplemental tutoring instruction to a small number of Math 017 and English 098 students who previously received no formal tutoring services.

Finally, we have expanded Developmental Education programming to our three Regional Centers with Ann Marie Keenan providing oversight. It is our plan to incorporate programmatic experiences similar to those offered at Main Campus to students at each center and to monitor closely both the rostering and progress of students in DE programs at these centers.

Mathematics Initiative

Under the leadership of Geoff Schulz a core of mathematics faculty has been meeting throughout the academic year. This group has engaged issues ranging from the profile of the DE mathematics student to appropriate responses to the reduction of class size from 36 to 20 for all sections of Math 016 & 017. Their conversations have resulted in the following Draft Document presented to the Mathematics Department. The document outlines recommendations and guidelines for developmental mathematics. It was presented to Mathematics professors by the members of the group: namely, Atish Bagchi, Jere Brubaker, Gail Chaskes, Dot French, Donald Herman, John Majewicz, Tom Ott, Geoffery Schulz, Margaret Stephens, and Hal Switkay. Mathematics Draft Document Academic Year ’97/’98

The Developmental Mathematics Discussion Group has been meeting all semester to discuss ways to positively impact our students who are enrolled in the developmental mathematics courses (Math 016, 017). Though it is difficult not to include Math 118 in this discussion, our primary emphasis has been on our first two courses. Discussions of this sort are happening throughout the country ... since the population of students enrolled in these types of classes is certainly not shrinking. The primary focus this semester has been to address the question. “Who are our developmental mathematics students and what can we do to serve them better?”

To quote from ...Ted Panitz at Cape Cod Community College, “...students today are less prepared than ever before, are less inclined to read, need additional training in study skills, are less motivated to do homework and study, make fewer connections with the use and value of mathematics, to name a few items”. Sure sounds as if we have our work cut out for us! The following lists a few things that we have come up with. We present them to you for your comments.

Homework and Assessment

. Time on task is such an important element in the study of mathematics and mandatory homework and assessment of it through weekend assignments, daily quizzes or the like is imperative for this population. Letting students decide what to work on may work with other more motivated populations but not these students. We encourage all instructors of these classes to impose homework requirements on students, assessing these assignments in such a manner as to give the students frequent feedback as to their progress.

Exams and Final Exams

. Whether one chooses to use the custom texts or the Brown texts, exams and finals are available and we encourage all faculty to use them for a uniform assessment of the students’ knowledge. No exam grade should be dropped nor should a student be able to bypass the final exams. At the very least these should be a mandatory part of their grade. Frequent assessment of these students is critical to their understanding of whether they know the material well enough to progress. Students should not be automatically passed, as has often happened to them in their past educational experiences. Use the MP grade if you are not confident they can succeed in the next class. If in doubt, use the MP grade. Students can continue to get financial aid for grades of MP but cannot go back and study the material again and get financial aid if they have “passed it.” Many of our students have not learned basic mathematics well enough to move on. Remember, it is not the instructor’s failure if students do not pass. It does the students no favor passing them if they are then walking into almost certain failure (studies seem to indicate that students are more likely to pass Math 118 having tested into it than coming up though our developmental courses— studies which we will discuss in the Spring semester report). All of the above also applies to those instructors using their own materials. Be sure the students have a good chance of succeeding in subsequent courses. Make your passing grade a minimum of a 70% average. Even that may be too low. We are asking quite a bit of many students to have them succeed in 14 weeks when our classes are only 3 hour classes. Many institutions offer these classes as 4 or 5 hour classes (also with no credit). Under discussion is the possible creation and use of exit/entrance exams for these classes to determine eligibility for the next class in the sequence. More will be said in the Spring semester report.

Material Mastery.

Work with integers is so crucial to students’ success in Algebra, that we need to pay more attention to this topic. Students should demonstrate a mastery of operations with signed numbers and terms before they leave Math 017. Now it would be wonderful if they had this grasp when they left Math 016 but it is included in the Math 017 course outline. Math 016 is the appropriate place for this mastery to occur, but it will only happen if we increase the amount of time spent on this topic by infusing it throughout the course, possibly even different assessment instruments where students need to explain/prove why certain operations give certain results. Solving linear equations well and being able to graph a line and understand solutions to equations are also major topics at the Math 017 level that need to be mastered for a student to achieve success in the subsequent courses (Math 118 and above).


Collaborative learning (having the students work in groups) in class on topics of the day or outside of class (on projects), is a teaching tool whose time has come. While it is easier said than done, it would behoove us as a faculty to really consider this approach for at least part of our class time. Some in the department are using it with good success and we call upon those individuals to step forth and guide the rest of us. The same goes with effective use of technology. We should not turn our back on the use of calculators and computers to help us in our mission. But again, the key word is effective. Another approach which may be appropriate for this population is the use of manipulatives and hands-on materials in the study of Arithmetic and Basic Algebra. The above views are echoed by the MAA and AMATYC standards documents.

Support Services for Students.

Students need as much time as they can get to learn the mathematics. Let us strive to use the Mathematics Learning Lab and the services they provide. If a class has an assigned lab, the students should be required to attend. (Teachers should make it part of the grade). At the first instance of trouble, students should be informed about the lab facilities and the tutoring or workshops available. In fact, they should be informed often. Take them on a tour of the lab as an early semester activity, or perhaps even spend office time in the lab to assist your students. Remember the quote above concerning the type of student we are getting in these classes. They truly need all the help we can provide, either directly or through a second party such as the lab.

Collegial Support.

The group has begun discussions on assembling materials for these courses to set up a sharing bank for faculty to use, both in the way of exams, quizzes, weekend assignments, etc. along with class materials for different topics. Faculty teaching these classes for the first time (or any time) would benefit by this sharing of information. For brand new instructors, orientation materials might be created to ease them into the teaching of these courses to this population. It is a different experience from what one might expect teaching in college.

Environment for Learning.

In addition to the above initiative, beginning Fall 1998 we have secured M3-3A & B as classrooms dedicated to Developmental Education Mathematics instruction. Faculty wishing to construct an environment hospitable for Developmental Math instruction are invited to request either Math 016 or 017 offered in those classrooms. Further, lockable cabinets will be made available in each room so that faculty wishing to make use of manipulatives and other instructional apparatus may have a safe place to store their materials. [This concludes the draft document.]


During ’98/’99, five sections of English ranging from 097 through 100/101 and six sections of Developmental Mathematics were taught using software purchased from Academic Systems, Corp. This software is a powerful interactive program which allows instructors and students to work in an environment where one-on-one instruction is the dominant mode of teaching and where student progress is mapped virtually from class to class. In addition, as the software program is adaptable, students may be carried over from one level to the next by the same instructor, as occurred this year in the classes of Dot French and Bill Straff. Kathleen Murphey of the English Department and Geoff Schulz and Jere Brubaker of the Mathematics also participated in this project. Both short term and longitudinal research, sponsored by ESS, is being conducted by Kathy Harter of the Chemistry Dept.

In addition, the Mathematics faculty mentioned above have met with representatives of publishing firms to view various software packages for both primary and supplemental instruction.

Learning Lab

A committee, members of which are Doug Buchholz, Gail Chaskes, Olympia Mitchell (co-chair), Tom Ott (co-chair), Ruth Ross, Judith Rossman, and Mary Ann Yannuzzi, has met throughout the academic year. The purpose of these meetings has been to reaffirm the role of the Learning Lab in DE instruction as well as to explore ways to better serve the needs of students, especially evening students who frequently are unable to attend scheduled labs due to work constraints. A report to the Dean of ESS will be prepared by semester’s end and will be part of the ’98/’99 DE Initiatives.


A committee, members of which are Shelia Cohen, Rena Allen Daniels, Fred Dukes, Tom Ott and Jim Ruffins, has met beginning January 1998 to develop a program of counseling services for the College Achievement Partnership. Central to the philosophy developed for this programmatic approach is that counseling services should be active rather than reactive, designed to meet the needs of a maximum number of students, not just those in crisis. To that end, the program will be driven by the imperative of accelerating the initiation of students to our collegiate culture through class-based interaction and workshop activities designed to introduce students to the expectations of faculty and the rigors of collegiate work. Key to this program will be the consistent message that the work we do in Developmental Education is geared toward academic and personal achievement and that our efforts are in the service of those students seeking success. The design of this program will be presented to the college community as part of the DE ’98/’99 Initiatives.

Professional Development

Professional development during academic year ’97/’98 has been mostly a matter of faculty pursuing their interests in structured settings such as committee meetings and formal projects. This is consistent with the ’97/’98 Initiatives in that professional development would be related to the work faculty were engaged in rather than focused on large philosophical/pedagogical issues. While a great many faculty have been involved in issues critical to development of our programs, a venue to discuss larger pedagogical issues would also have been welcome and will be provided for academic year ’98/’99.

Research and Development

During the last academic year this committee, members of which are Francie Blake, Wendy Blume, Victoria King Garwood, Jane Grosset, Olympia Mitchell, Tom Ott, Ruth Ross, Jim Ruffins, Geoff Schulz and Susan Tobia (chair), addressed two significant issues: development of a plan for A-level and issues relevant to enculturation of students to the rigors of collegiate work.

A-Level.Freshman Orientation Seminar 101 will be required for all new A-level students.


In conjunction with Victoria King-Garwood’s office, orientation sessions will be provided for entering A-level students as part of scheduled registration sessions.

Gateway and Extended (28 week) Semester Programs.

We will explore Gateway program options in addition to the Music 120 linked to 089/097 for academic year 1998/1999. For Full-time students, the Gateway project and the FOS course plus a math course should constitute a workable semblance of the “Cluster” concept developed by the Task Force for Developmental Education (p. 16). In addition, Extended Semester (28 week) models will be formally launched as program design for either full or part-time students. Again, a 28 week package including an FOS 101 experience should address the issue raised by both the Task force for Developmental Education and our Research and Development group.

Coordination of Learning Lab support for both Gateway and 28 week experiences.

The Research and Development group has been clear that the Learning Lab resource must be tightly connected to classroom activity and that Learning Lab activity should be consider an integral, as opposed to added-on, part of the A-level experience. Models for this connection will be explored Spring semester 1998.

Develop a core of A-level faculty

Development of a core of faculty working in A-level has been problematic in the past. However, instituting Gateway, Extended Semester, FOS 101 and other programmatic initiatives should engender a sustainable A-level agenda that faculty across disciplines may find interesting enough to identify and cooperate with.

Counseling Program

While this group has not addressed this formally, a well-defined counseling program is part of the planned 1998/1999 A-level Initiative. (See Counseling, page 12.)

Research Program.

A significant piece of work remaining for the Research and Development committee with regard to A-level is designing sound research instruments for conducting evaluations. A limited number of benchmarks, perhaps three to five, should be developed over the next three years to provide data documenting programmatic progress. Jane Grosset already has one such instrument in progress.


The Task Force for Developmental Education was clear that the purpose of DE instruction at Community College of Philadelphia is to gain for students entrance to college programs. Given the lack of understanding on the part of many students about the nature of the commitment necessary for success and the obvious need to accelerate the process of adjustment to our environment, the Research and Development Committee engaged in a process of exploring mechanisms that would assist students to more quickly understand the nature of the enterprise. This aspect of the committee’s work is closely allied with the efforts of the counseling group and should be reflected in the Counseling Program design currently in progress.


As we conclude the ’97/’98 academic year, it would seem that the agenda set out in the recommendations of the Task Force for Developmental Education and developed in the ’97/’98 Initiatives has been advanced. There is, of course, much work remaining in both the academic and affective side of educational support for our students, but the design of an academically based DE program has been satisfactorily begun and the college administration has maintained its commitment to move this important work forward.

Much may be anticipated for ’98/’99, not the least of which will be a strong and clear message from the Office for Developmental Education that our responsibility is to students who come to our institution wishing to learn. While additional resources are always welcome and are vigorously lobbied for, I believe those we make available to students are more than simply adequate when students are motivated to take advantage of them. In the absence of that motivation or willingness to take advantage of resources, I am at a loss to know what more we can reasonably provide.

Finally, I believe we have had an energetic and productive ’97/’98, and I look forward to ’98/’99 with enthusiasm and the expectation that Developmental Education services at Community College of Philadelphia will continue to improve and that our program will ensure for every willing student a solid academic foundation that will prepare him/her for success in our collegiate programs.

Mathematics Draft Document Academic Year ’97/’98

Mutual Effort, Awareness are Crucial Steps

The major points of the discussions engaged in by the Developmental Mathematics Discussion Group are outlined below. There is much work to do but it is important work. We have classes of size 20 in all the sections of Math 016 and Math 017. Let’s capitalize on this. While not sacrificing quality of instruction and quality of content, we need to serve this population better. A concerted effort by all of us is needed and we invite all to join us in our discussions. Sharing of our experiences and of our materials and approaches is an important step to allow us to make progress.—Developmental Mathematics Discussion Group Discussion Highlights

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