Luzelma G. Canales, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Resource Development & Administration
Lone Star College System
5000 Research Forest Drive
The Woodlands, TX 77381-4356
In my fifteen years as a community college administrator, I have spent countless hours sitting around a table reviewing student outcome data for math students. I, too, continue to see the call for innovative-evidenced based strategies for improving outcomes for math students. I also concur with Dr. Treisman’s assertion that we continue to ‘pilot’ programs and strategies. Seldom do we have the courage to bring to scale promising practices and letting go of old practices.
I would suggest that it is time to move from a deficit to an asset model of student success. From a model where we keep trying to ‘fix’ our students to one where we turn the mirror on ourselves and consider that we might have to fundamentally transform how we approach the role of math in preparing a competitive workforce.
I am happy to see that experts like Dr. Treisman and his team at the Dana Center are asking us to have courageous conversations about the role of math not as a course but in preparing students for programs of study and ultimately to enter the workforce with the skills that they need to fulfill their job requirements.
However, I continue to see most of the national, state, and local discussion around what we can do to improve the transitions and/or alignment between K-12 and higher education. We can’t, however, ignore the fact that many of our new college entrants (especially in community colleges) are nontraditional students that have been out of school for a while. The adult student truly does not have two to three years to spend taking remedial courses before they can begin to earn credits towards a certificate or degree.
Adult education theories tell us that we must engage adult students in learning by honoring the experience that they bring with them to college. It is, therefore, critical that we look to models that leverage contextualized and/or integrated curriculum to help students understand the relevance of what they are learning to real life experiences. Jobs for the Future’s Breaking Through initiative has done an incredible job of documenting effective practices from throughout the country that leverage adult education theories and accelerate students’ time to completing a credential, certificate, or degree without compromising instructional rigor.
When interviewed, students participating in these programs will tell you that it is only through rigor, relevance, and high expectations that they are successful. In Achieving the Dream, we learned that ‘listening to the voices’ is a critical aspect of institutional improvement. I, therefore, challenge myself and my colleagues from throughout the country to accept that students are the experts in their educational journey and that we have much to learn from how they successfully navigate our institutions to complete the requirements to earn their degree. Imagine a time when we invite the student to be part of the solution of how we can improve teaching and learning.