Once a month, we highlight departments, programs, and committees from across the college that have great things happening motivated by a desire to improve student learning.

September 2014

In May, longtime CCSF Assistant Director of Research, Steve Spurling retired--again! In an Institutional Development Division meeting last May, each person was asked to reflect on the highlights of the year. Steve noted that he was proud to be leaving City College on the heels of two data success stories: Metro and Acceleration/Compression. This issue of SLO Highlights is dedicated to Steve Spurling and his incredible career at CCSF!

Metro Transfer Academies

Metro Academy Students from first three years.

Strong Student Outcomes in Metro Academies Transfer Program

 Each Metro Academy (Metro) is a “school within a school” for up to 130 students who come to City College primarily from public high schools serving large numbers of low-income, first generation and/or unrepresented students. Most Metro students have placed two or three semesters below college-ready English and math, but are determined to graduate and transfer. Currently CCSF has three academies in progress: Metro Academy of Health, Metro Academy of Child Development and Metro Transfer Academy at the Mission Center (starting fall 2015).  All are the result of intensive collaboration among many departments and schools across City College—from English, to Math, to IDST and the retention programs.

The Metro program has three features:  First, a cohort-style learning community in which about 35 students study together for two classes each semester, over four semesters, serving as the students’ educational home.   This design builds very strong bonds among students, faculty and counselors.  Second, wrap-around services based in the learning community, from academic counseling, to tutoring, to financial aid advising.  Third, a 45-hour professional development program for faculty, a place to hone dynamic teaching practices.   All Metro core classes are general education classes that satisfy graduation requirements for both the associate’s and the bachelor’s degrees. 

What does recent student success data reveal?  Steve Spurling in Institutional Research set up a comparison group of students similar to Metro students, matched on eight variables.  For Metro Health, the most mature program:

•   Nearly five times as many Metro students completed City College in three years (63%) as the comparison group (13%);

•   Metro has roughly one-third the attrition rate of the comparison group;

•   Approximately two years are shaved off time of completion, resulting in an average of three years to completion, rather than five for a similar student.

In the Metro Academy of Child Development, similar success is documented:

•   Despite all most all students placing one or two years below college-level English and math, after three years 63% are transfer prepared, compared to 6% in the comparison group.  

•   61% of Metro students complete or persist after three years, versus 27%

The program grew out of a long-standing partnership with SF State, where Metro is now expanding to serve one quarter of all incoming students.  Metro at SF State has in place an SLO assessment process which will start at City College as conditions permit: through the use of ePortfolios, students able to exhibit their best work and show to reviewers what they have learned, how their intellectual skills have developed throughout the program, and how they can apply their knowledge to new situations. ePortfolios serve as a way to engage in an authentic assessment process that moves beyond methods such as standardized tests, and instead uses real-life applications and audiences.  In Metro staff’s view, this is more effective and meaningful than testing. It is assessment for learning rather than simply assessment of learning. Creating the ePortfolio helps students reflect on their learning, apply their knowledge to real-world issues, and synthesize their knowledge.

Acceleration Strategies in Mathematics 

Students speak about their expereinces in Accelerated Math

Course Design helps close the achievement gap

Curriculum work that the English and Mathematics departments have done to address the achievement gap is showing amazing results. These departments have been revising the Course Outlines of Record for their developmental courses on an ongoing basis, ensuring that the expected learning outcomes are well defined and shared among departmental faculty. These departments are also experimenting with shorter sequences of developmental courses, and they have established assessment methods that will allow them to determine the effectiveness of these sequences in achieving the desired learning outcomes. Math pursued two tracks—Compressed Classes and Accelerated Classes--both are producing promising results. Compressed classes take a traditional course design and offer the content in a shorter time frame. In 2001, Steve Spurling wrote in his RP Group paper, “Compression of Semesters or Intensity of Study: What is it that Increases Student Success?” that when courses are offered in shorter terms, students experience more success. Spurling was comparing regular term courses to summer offerings. However, Math began collecting data for students enrolled in condensed MATH 40 offered during a regular semester. In the first cohort measured in fall 2012, 35% of those students passed both condensed 40 and condensed 60 with C or higher. Students enrolled in condensed MATH E3, 28% passed both condensed E3 and 40 with C or higher. According to the CCSF Research Office 21% of students who enroll in a regular full-semester MATH 40 succeed in a regular full-semester MATH 60 in the following semester. So the condensed classes demonstrate higher success rates in one semester than regular classes have in two semesters. Math has continued to collect data for the condensed courses and the latest data, from Spring 2014, shows that in condensed Math E3, 40, and 60 classes, students are about 15% more likely to pass the class than those enrolled in a non-accelerated class.

The second track, Acceleration, charts even more success. Acceleration does more than compress--it redesigns curriculum. Faculty use a backward design so the desired outcome is identified first and then curriculum is scaffolded to reach the sought after goal. Acceleration also employs “just in time remediation” where classroom assessment techniques are used so that if students are struggling with the particular skills, the remediation happens while the students are immersed in a challenging, contextualized problem.  Acceleration also pays explicit attention to the affective domain so that students’ attitudes and motivations about mathematics are central to the course. Finally, course content centers on mathematical situations that are authentic and would likely be encountered in a college-level statistics class and/or outside of class. Mathematics’ accelerated course, Math 45, has produced stunning results. Using data from 2013, students are 8 times more likely to pass college level statistics when their developmental education uses the accelerated outcome model. Collaboration around assessment has contributed to the success of these courses. As Hal Huntsman wrote in one assessment report, "We learned from each other about methods and techniques we use in class. We discussed commonalities and differences between classes. We analyzed, together, the ability of our students to succeed in the next class and considered possible strategies to improve those numbers. We all enjoyed the process."