Francis Su: Math as Justice

“Every being cries out silently to be read differently.” 

To Live Your Best Life, Do Mathematics


Milliken on CUNY Connected and Remediation

As a follow-up to last week's post, CUNY Chancellor James Milliken has this week unveiled out a new strategic plan called "CUNY Connected". Among the promises are increased graduation rates. In the subsection on remediation reform (again), he writes:
Each fall, approximately 20,000 students—over half of all CUNY freshmen– are assigned to developmental education in at least one subject, usually mathematics. In associate degree programs, 74 percent of freshmen were assigned to developmental education in math in fall 2015, 23 percent in reading, and 33 percent in writing. But CUNY’s one-size-fits-all approach to preparing students has not worked. In fall 2015, just 38% of the 14,215 students in remedial algebra successfully completed it.

Implementing these reforms, the number of students placed in remediation will decline by at least 15 percent. The number of students determined to be proficient after one year of remediation will increase by at least 5 percentage points in year one and will increase as we move to scale.

Under the reforms, 20,000 students per semester will receive tutoring and supplemental instruction and 4,000 will be enrolled in courses with faculty who have been newly trained. Another one thousand students will enroll in immersion programs or new developmental workshops. All students will have access to instructional software.

CUNY will bring to scale two developmental options of proven efficacy: 1) co-requisite courses—credit-bearing courses with additional mandatory supports in the form of workshops or tutoring, and 2) alternatives to math proficiency other than algebra for students pursuing majors or courses of study that do not require algebra. College algebra is necessary for many but not all majors.

We will also end the practice of requiring all students to pass common tests in algebra, writing and reading to exit developmental education. Grades, it has been found, are a better predictor of proficiency and success. CUNY will continue the use of standardized common final exams that count for 35 percent of the final course grade.

These are dictates that were communicated internally at CUNY within the last year. It's interesting that higher passing rates can be dictated in advance by fiat. To be clear: Most CUNY graduates will not need to be algebra proficient, most will not take a course which uses algebra skills, and those who do will not need to succeed on any particular assessment or test to be declared proficient. Another point of clarification: While "college algebra" is mentioned in this section, college algebra is not actually a remedial course (most students already have never taken college algebra at CUNY); the remedial/general education expectation which is being removed is at the level of elementary algebra, around 8th-9th grade level skills as identified in the U.S. Common Core and other curricula.