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Summer preparatory course offers chance to eliminate remedial courses

Submitted by Steven Savage on September 1, 2013 – 2:13 pmOne Comment

Photo by Taylor Sills

The UALR student services success initiatives program offered an academically intense, three-week residential program for minorities to eliminate remedial courses in math, English, and writing with its Summer Bridge Program from July 14 through Aug. 3.

The Dr. Charles W. Donaldson Summer Bridge Academy served as a way to help minority students improve ACT scores and college preparation.

Darryl McGee, assistant vice chancellor for educational, student services and student life, worked to oversee the program and bring it to life.

McGee said “The program took away the concerns students had about taking the remedial courses in order to maintain their scholarships. It took away their concerns about if they were smart enough to be here.”

McGee said he saw a problem and decided to help create a solution to offset the problem.

“I see a common problem where students will spend many years trying to graduate
and still have not passed remedial math. The majority of those students, in turn, drop out.”

Director of UALR testing services Brad Patterson and SSSI Coordinator Amber Smith helped initiate the program. According to Smith, 44 students started the program and 43 completed.

“Students came in with ACT scores less than 21 and we utilized the COMPASS test to help boost those scores,” she said.

“Students used that score to bypass elementary algebra and some tested into trigonometry.”

Some of the statistics of the students’ progress included:

  • 11 students eligible for honors composition
  • Average composition scores went up 18 points
  • Average math scores went up 20 points
  • 88% bypassed developmental math
  • 79% bypassed developmental composition
  • 50% of those required bypassed developmental reading
  • 58 total course advancements

According to Smith, the average math ACT gain was six points. She said this is the first year the program has been implemented and the goal is to get bigger and better. Her hope is to get more students through the program as they progress.

“I’m not going to be happy until I get 102 percent, so there’s always work to be done to improve,” Smith said.

According to the SSSI website, Summer Bridge students were able to enroll in up to two 3-credit hour courses such as: developmental college courses in reading, English or math; introductory-level college courses in math; and/or a speech communication course.

Students had the chance to participate in seminars such as: college learning strategies, Kuder Career Assessment, and financial/economic literacy workshops. Smith said student’s schedule consisted of the following:

  • Breakfast– 8 to 9 a.m.
  • Class– 9 to 12 p.m.
  • Lunch– 12 to 1 p.m.
  • Class– 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Student Workshop – 4 to 5 p.m.
  • Dinner– 5 to 6 p.m.
  • Study Sessions – 6 to 9 p.m.

According to Smith, study sessions were based on teams with their mentor tutors. Mentors were responsible for getting their students through the program successfully.

Harold Brown had the opportunity to participate as a mentor and said he learned quite a bit from the students. Brown said the students displayed such a “commitment to success,” that he was infected with the same spirit.

“The program came with its challenges, but they continued to persist and succeeded.” he said.

Brown said that even though he felt like he made a difference in the students’ lives, they made an even bigger one in his life.

“They encouraged me to continue down the teaching path. I’m deeply honored to be part of that,” Brown said.

Smith said, “While we increase students’ knowledge academically, they increase their connection with the university and create relationships that would last beyond the Summer Bridge Program.”

Smith added that students talked about defining success as gaining the confidence and the passion to learn. She said “the learner” was turned on in the children.

“I remember coming back to West Hall to find papers spread out throughout the basement floor because students were studying.” She said she saw that the students asked to be tested and challenged.

At the end of the program, there was an award ceremony in which students received a medallion for their hard work. Some of the students even offered their opinion of the academy.

Participant Brea Lambert said the program was a great tool to use to get a refresher or clarity on things they may have missed in high school.

“This program has much value because it helps students understand concepts they have forgotten or did not understand in high school. The program also helps save students money by eliminating remedial courses.”

Adriane Martin, also a participant said, “This program means a lot to me because it gave me a second chance to show what I can do in both math and English. I have improved from this program and had fun at the same time. I definitely recommend this program to incoming college freshman students looking to improve.”

Smith said the program was successful, in part by collaborating with faculty and staff all over campus.

“The best thing from an administrative perspective was the collaboration across the campus,” Smith said. “This was a good opportunity for staff, faculty, and administration to collaborate for student success. It allowed a rare opportunity for them to pull ideas together for the program.”

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