College math interventions n + 1

Posted on November 1, 2019


Alexandra Logue shared this article about the Relationship between Required Corequisite Learning and Success in College Algebra from the Georgia Journal of College Student Affairs.

Students in college algebra who participated in corequisitie learning were compared to students who did not.
The students with the support did a whole lot better.
There was a fair amount of writing about “Complete College America,” which has six pet “strategies to help students to succeed in earning a post-secondary credential: 15 to Finish, Math Pathways, Corequisite Support, Momentum Year, Academic Maps with Proactive Advising, and A Better Deal for Returning Adults.” I really appreciate that they’re pretty open about things like limitations but … it’s not as if they let those limitations stop them from holding to their preconceptions. Their focus is on “cusp” students — the ones that almost make it. Their infographics about how bad things are include everybody, but their strategies involve lots of filtering. Consider how many students for whom 15 credit hours in a semester would be inappropriate for so many reasons… The ideas are excellent, but unfortunately their successes are used as evidence that this is all that’s needed and to justify eliminating developmental courses, though this article does cite articles showing that that “… highly underprepared students have stronger degree completion rates than students who do not take the courses.”
THe article puts its limitations out front. For starters, this is not developmental math; “as a higher level math course with higher exemption criteria, comparison to other research may be less applicable.”
Well, yes.
However, the good news first: 72.7% of the folks w/ co-requisite got A, B, or C in college algebra vs. 56.3% in the folks who did the algebra without the support course.
Other limitations were also mentioned. The groups compared were in different semesters. So, Fall 2017 students who took College Algebra and didn’t take the support course were compared to Fall 2018 students who took College Algebra and *did* take the support course. Now, since they excluded students who *did* have a grade in the support course in teh Fall 2017 it seems the course existed then. Why not compare those students? (That said, there are potentially all kinds of good reasons.)
The second group was much smaller; they had expected it to be bigger because admission criteria for the school was lowered. In fact, it was 1/3 of the size “attributed to better student placement into the appropriate math for their perspective majors.” This made my cynical eye check the demographics — but the smaller group had 40% Black/African-American, 14.5% HIspanic and the bigger “no corequisite” group was 25.9% Black/African-American and 5.& % Hispanic. So happily, no, they didn’t filter out minorities… but they did filter.
I wonder why they removed from the data anybody who withdrew from the courses. I’d at least want to know how many people did the W thing (guess what? Lots of people who would have failed take a W).
Now, this article **actually mentioned** a little thing usually left out, as “another limitation,” that “over time, staff and faculty could modify instructional methods for this new course leading to changes in outcomes. ” So … things could get even better.
I’m not sure how surprised we should be that … students with an extra support course do better than students without the course. I hope they explore designing instruction to further improve the support. It would be great if that were used to justify in investing in student support for students in courses that have high failure rates even though students have met the criteria to take them. It really doesn’t say anything about the rest of the world, though 😉
… and next week I’ll peruse some more articles and see what else is going on!

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