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Texas’ big strides in preparing students for college math

A new math course is boosting collaboration and learning and may be key to getting more students college ready

texas-mathAs educators, we remain concerned about the readiness of students who graduate high school and matriculate to higher education. In Texas, 51% of two-year and 12 percent of four-year students required remediation upon entry to college.i Complete College America found that, of two year college students who took developmental classes, only 5.8% earned a degree in three years.ii

As an effort to address these challenges, in 2013 Texas passed House Bill 5, an innovative education legislation that included a College Prep Mathematics course as one means to increase the number of college-ready students. This course provides high school seniors who are still struggling with mathematics concepts needed for college an opportunity to complete their preparation for college mathematics. The legislation also included safeguards to ensure that students can move directly into college credit-bearing courses upon successful completion of the course and avoid developmental courses. Aligning the course content to the wide range of entry-level college mathematics courses is a key component of a seamless transition from high school to college mathematics.

Essential elements

Twelfth grade students have a range of courses they can take to satisfy their high school mathematics requirements. For those who are not yet college ready, the College Prep Mathematics course is designed to use the twelfth grade year to fill in gaps in their learning and to finalize their preparation so that students entering college can be successful in all entry level mathematics courses. Several elements in House Bill 5 make the College Prep Course a very promising strategy. To maximize the potential of the course, districts and community colleges need to incorporate the following components in their implementation efforts.

• Districts and a partner higher education institution create an MOU that determines the course content, professional development for teachers, and the definition of successful completion of the course.

• All Texas higher education institutions should come to an agreement that allows students who successfully complete the College Prep Mathematics course to enroll directly in entry-level college courses without further placement scrutiny, regardless of where the student went to high school. The legislation states that students who successfully complete the College Prep Mathematics course are guaranteed the right to enroll in entry-level college mathematics course at the specific institution partnered with their K-12 district. However,  education leaders across Texas are working on agreements to allow students to use their college readiness designation beyond the one college partnered with their district.

• The content of the course includes quantitative literacy, statistics, and algebra to prepare students for all entry-level college courses. While historically students have been required to pursue the Algebra II/PreCalc pathway to prepare for college, that route is no longer the only option or the right option for all students. My colleague, Amy Getz, explains in a recent blog post the trend in higher education towards students taking mathematics courses that are aligned to skill sets needed for their career and thus high school preparation varies for the different pathways.

To offer guidance to districts on the necessary content for the College Prep course, the Texas Success Center (charged with scaling student success efforts deemed promising by the Texas Association of Community Colleges) convened a mathematics taskforce made up of experienced community college and K-12 faculty to develop a framework of student learning objectives. The Texas Success Center’s HB 5 College Preparatory Math Content Framework describes these learning objectives, which aim to prepare students for multiple mathematics pathways. My colleagues at the Charles A. Dana Center were a part of the mathematics taskforce and created curriculum for the course aligned to the Framework. We are currently working with several districts that are entering their second year of implementing our curriculum.

If the College Prep Mathematics course is implemented with the above key elements, it will realize the highest aspirations of the legislation—to offer all students another opportunity in high school to prepare for success in college mathematics. More students enrolling directly into college-level courses ultimately lead to higher rates of college completion for Texas students.

Lindsay Fitzpatrick serves as the K-12 Policy Specialist at the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

Further reading
For more information on Texas policies and practices focused on alignment of high school and college mathematics, check out the Dana Center’s paper, Mathematics at the Transition.

i Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. (2012). Developmental Education Accountability Measures Data. Retrieved September 2014.

ii Complete College America. (n.d.). Texas 2011, p. 4. Retrieved March 18, 2014.

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