BOT talks basic skills

Less than 13 percent of students at Santa Monica College are prepared for college level courses in English and math, according to a report prepared by Hannah Lawler, director of institutional research.

The report, Basic Skills Data, was presented to the Board of Trustees at their study session last night. Basic skills, as defined by Lawler, refers to classes that do not fulfill requirements for an associate degree of transfer.

Breaking away from the traditional structure at the monthly BOT meetings, the BOT held a roundtable discussion on the Bundy Campus. Members of English, ESL, math, political science, and supplemental instruction departments were present to discuss the report's findings.

Board Chair Nancy Greenstein shared that the purpose was to “gather a group of experts from campus and have a conversation.”

The report states that about 73 percent of students who take the math placement exam perform at a basic skills level; 27 percent place at transfer level math. Additionally, 70 percent of those taking English placement land in the basic skills bracket.

The report is reflective mainly of first-time freshmen, said Lawler.

The meeting also addressed contextualizing material covered in these basic skills classes.

Terry Green, of the math department, commented on the textbooks chosen and the real life examples used to aid students' understanding of mathematical concepts.

English professor Susan Sterr said that the most exciting thing is “the marriage of basic skills and career technical education.” Sterr expressed that when students are placed in remedial courses, they do not feel like they are in college. Therefore, the material should be “married” with interest.

Three of the 28 participants were supplementary instructors, who are students trained to assist in lower-level classes. The Board listened to these students’ advice about how to improve the effectiveness of the student learning experience.

One supplementary instructor, Amy Rahimpour, mentioned the benefit of requiring study sessions for extra credit. After one student said he only attended for the extra credit, he admitted that the sessions helped him receive an A.

Basic skills professor Jason Beardsley explained that we may only be helping a few students at a time, but progress “is in the details, and that takes patience.”