Nearly half of college-age students in Arkansas require some type of academic remediation. Perhaps more distressing is that many of those same students will never make it to graduation day, according to the national nonprofit Complete College America.
But the Dr. Charles W. Donaldson Summer Bridge Academy has offered 44 incoming University of Arkansas at Little Rock freshmen an impressive antidote to those dismal statistics.
The results have been nothing short of amazing, according to Brad Patterson, director of the UALR Office of Testing Services and Student Life Research. They include:
• Eleven students now eligible for honors composition
• Thirty-eight students, or 88 percent, who have bypassed developmental math, with an average math score increase of 20 points
• Almost 80 percent who have bypassed developmental composition, with average composition scores jumping 18 points
• Fifty percent who have bypassed developmental reading
• In all, 58 total course advancements
According to UALR Student Services Success Initiatives program officials, the recently completed pilot three-week academy for minorities represents the first intensive residential summer program in Arkansas that has data to prove that remediation rates can be improved before the start of the fall term.
Although SSSI developed the program, they were quick to point out that its success stemmed from the cross-disciplinary contributions of many faculty and staff. The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and Bank of America provided major funding.
The program culminated with an award ceremony and celebration on Aug. 3, where Dr. Sherece West-Scantlebury, president and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, charged the Class of 2017 to never falter in their “patience, passion, persistence, and purpose.”
The ceremony also featured newly retired Vice Chancellor Dr. Donaldson, who was rarely seen without a huge smile as he helped distribute student awards.
According to program coordinator Amber Smith, a “work hard, play hard” mentality pervaded the entire program, backed by high expectations and something even more powerful.
“These students know that they matter,” said Smith. “They weren’t just told that. They were shown it.”
The improved test scores may be the best proof the program can work beyond the pilot phase and plans are already underway to offer it again next summer.
Program administrators said an unexpected bonus was seeing certain intangible outcomes as the weeks passed–the camaraderie, the mutual respect, and the sense of empowerment the program seemed to foster.
The students will continue to be tracked into future semesters to compare their successful completion of subsequent courses and fall-to-fall retention, according to program officials.