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From left: Juan Buriel, English Department chair; Kathy Kubo, math professor; Mary Petersen, English professor; Joe Gerda, math professor; Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook, College of the Canyons chancellor; and Brice Harris, California Community Colleges chancellor.

Release No. COC-11.20.15-StudentSuccess
November 20, 2015

College Receives State Award for Innovative Accelerated Courses 

Citing an innovative approach that condenses remedial coursework to save students time and money and enhance completion, the California Community College Chancellor’s Office named College of the Canyons a recipient of the 2015 Student Success Award.

The award was announced Friday by state Chancellor Brice Harris at the Community College League of California annual convention. 

“We are honored to be recognized by the state Chancellor’s Office for our efforts to enhance student success,” College of the Canyons Chancellor Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook said. “Thanks to our dedicated faculty and hard-working administrators, College of the Canyons has one of the highest completion rates in California. This award highlights their commitment to innovation and excellence, and always focusing on doing what’s best for our students.”

Through the “Accelerate Your Dreams to Reality” project, the college implemented two classes – Math 75 and English 96 – that nearly triple students’ chances of completing college-level courses. Math 75 prepares students who are not majoring in fields related to science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) to take college-level statistics. It replaces a two-course sequence of basic algebra and intermediate algebra. And, English 96 replaces a two-course sequence that prepares students for the transfer 100-level curriculum in just one course.

The college’s acceleration efforts currently benefit more than 5,000 students per year and have resulted in one of the most robust offerings of accelerated math and English courses across the state of California. To date, students have saved more than 48,000 weeks of remedial instruction and more than $500,000 in tuition costs for remedial courses that do not count toward earning associate degrees.

The idea to combine two courses into one came as College of the Canyons faculty reviewed data on how long students took to move from remedial math and English into transfer-level coursework. This initiative is part of the statewide California Acceleration Project, which has been recognized nationwide for its efforts to improve student success and completion.

Implementing this innovative approach significantly increased success rates for students overall and dramatically for underrepresented groups. Data for Math 75 show that it more than doubles a student’s chances of completing a transfer-level math course. African-American students taking Math 75 saw a six-fold increase in success.

“Our students are much smarter as a result of this new approach, and Math 75 allows the space for them to fully exhibit their talents,” said Joe Gerda, a math faculty member who helped spearhead the acceleration effort. “I am very proud of what my students accomplish, with the assistance of their very capable classmates.”

College of the Canyons also allows students to enroll in a compressed cohort sequence of classes featuring Math 75 linked to the transfer-level statistics course in one semester; each course is taught in an eight-week format, featuring the same instructor and the same students. This cohort format has been shown to triple a student’s chances of success when completing the transfer sequence.  

English 96 is a rigorous reading and writing course that exposes students to big ideas in a high-challenge, high-support context. Students work through college-level reading and writing assignments, learning the academic and affective skills they need in order to succeed. 

Students who completed the accelerated English course in preparation for freshman composition had almost twice the success rate and eligibility for English 101 than those who completed the traditional two-course English sequence.

“I experience a powerful sense of fulfillment and hope that upon completing an acceleration course with me students invariably realize how the course has facilitated their prompt acquisition of the subject, how the course has saved them time and money, and how much closer to achieving their educational and/or professional goals this single course has gotten them,” said Juan Buriel, English department chair and acceleration faculty member.

The Chancellor’s Student Success Award, given to just two colleges this year, honors programs that demonstrate a commitment and significant progress toward achieving success and equity goals for students from diverse backgrounds. Winning programs also must exhibit success in the areas of access, retention, course completion, degree and certificate completion, and transfer.