New College of DuPage Transitions Math Program Bridges Gap for High School Seniors

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By Jennifer Duda

A pilot program between College of DuPage and York High School in Elmhurst is helping high school seniors better prepare for college-level math courses.

The Transitions Math Program, launched in August, has shown steady improvement among its participants, meaning more high school students will be ready for a rigorous college math curriculum. The long-term goal of the program is to significantly reduce the number of students required to take developmental math as incoming freshmen, giving them more time and less cost to complete coursework for their degrees.

“College of DuPage and District 502 high school leaders are working together to help address growing education gaps, and doing so with visible results,” said College of DuPage Chairman Deanne Mazzochi. “The hope is to provide students with the skills needed to be successful in college, enabling them to immediately enter college-level courses that help them work toward their degree, certificate or transfer credits.”

The National Assessment of Educational Progress’ most recent assessment in 2015 found that only 25 percent of the 13,200 high school seniors tested were performing at or above the proficient level. Additionally, the average student score was slightly lower than the previous assessment given in 2013.

Discussions of how best to better align math curriculum to increase student success have been ongoing since 2011 when a joint District 502 High Schools/COD committee was formed. It has worked closely with faculty and administrators of high schools in District 502 and COD for the last several years, discussing the significant proportion of high school graduates placing into developmental math at College of DuPage, said Math Professor Mary Hill.

With the York High School Math Department’s willingness to run the pilot class this year, the goal is to have every student placed into college-level math at the completion, she said. Sixty students are taking the pilot class, which emphasizes problem solving and developing mathematical literacy. Participants are assessed prior to and throughout the course to track progress.

Results thus far are encouraging, Hill said.

“The second assessment was taken at College of DuPage in January and the numbers are very encouraging,” she said. “Students overwhelmingly improved and a large portion of those who did improve did so by 50 percent or greater. One student started with a 21-point assessment in September and scored a 56 in January.”

The result is not only a class of students performing better in the classroom but a greater collaboration between COD and its feeder high school districts, said Tom Schrader, Dean of Math and Natural Sciences at College of DuPage.

“The partnership between the College and our area high schools can have a  tremendous impact on these students and reassure them of their ability to take college-level math,” he said “The pilot with York allows us to get our model out there and share with other institutions what we think will work to address what really is a national issue.”

While York High School partnered on the launch the program, other high school districts are eager to participate, Hill said. Registration currently is underway for next year’s program, which will include 19 high schools with an anticipated enrollment of 1,000 to 2,000 students.

College of DuPage leaders are gratified with the response, said President Dr. Ann Rondeau. The collaboration between the College’s Mathematics program and District 502 high schools strengthens their overall commitment to education and student success.

“These are students who were struggling and now are finding their place through a very focused program,” she said. “To have both the high schools and the College contributing to this will have significant impact for District 502, for the public schools and the College and, ultimately and most importantly, for the students. I am very pleased with the collaborative work of our respective faculties in this important effort toward student success.”