At the end of the mathematics meeting last
month there was discussion of re-purposing MS 065 to serve certificate
level students, possibly including material appropriate to vocational
certificate students. At that time I noted that the state sites would
have to take the lead on this re-development effort and build a course
useful to their certificate students.
I think such a course might also assist with an issue noted by one of
the instructional coordinators in a side note to me today - what to do
with certificate students who took and passed MS 090 with a "C" or
better but then "place" back into MS 090 on the placement test. This
happens when certificate students take the entrance test to attempt to
achieve admission to an associate's degree program. If the course they
take is MS 065, then placing into MS 090 after a single term at the
state site would be a non-issue.1
This could mean creating a "lower than MS 090" level distinction on the
entrance test, something the test does not currently do. The approval
to create a lower bound to admissions would not necessarily require
altering any of our tests, z-scores could be used to combine the three
English sections and the one math section of the entrance test.
To throw an interesting monkey-wrench
into the works, this afternoon I learned that one state site director
asked that student's who are below the PreAlgebra level, below the
level of the new MS 090, not be admitted to the college.2
The director, echoing words I've heard the president use, apparently
feels it is not the college's job to do that which the high schools
should have done and failed to do. The director thus opposes the
creation of an MS 065 preferring to not admit students are below
prealgebra in the level of their mathematics.
There is a logic in the director's position:
the certificate of achievement in general studies, arguably a common
path towards associate's degree admission, requires MS 098 to
graduate. A student who starts in MS 090 could theoretically finish MS
098 in three terms, which is 150% of the duration of the certificate.
150% is a "magic" number: it is the number of Pell-"able" terms for a
student in any program. For a one year certificate, 150% is three
terms. Any student who started below MS 065 would take "200%" to
finish the term.
Given the position of the president on not doing the job the high
schools should have done, there is an argument to be made in favor of
reaching out to underprepared students but then challenging them. I
have always noted that the day our developmental courses see 100%
promotion and retention rates is the day we have failed to reach down
"low enough" to serve underprepared students. Community colleges give
underprepared students a "shot" at a higher education, but at the price
of having to do a lot of hard work. I always expect that our lowest
levels will lose 50% or more, I look at it as half have had a chance to
climb up into higher education.
MS 090 PreAlgebra will represent a high mountain for an underprepared
student, but also an opportunity. The very weakest students would
still be screened out by the admissions "floor."
The decision of whether to re-develop and redeploy a modified MS 065 is
not up to me in any way, shape, or form, that is ultimately up to the
collective decisions of the instructional coordinators, the director of
academic programs, the VPIA, and the curriculum committee. I am but a
single vote in the process, and would support the decisions of the
instructional coordinators on this one.
There are so many complexities to our system that whatever we design
cannot handle all of the complexities. There is a certificate of
achievement in food technology that requires MS 104 technical math,
which has a prerequisite of MS 098. Few certificate level students (remember
that math scores traditionally correlate to English scores, although
this is something I need to research again using the new English
entrance test) place above MS 090. This suggests that most
students will take two years to complete this requirement (MS 090, MS
095, MS 098, and then MS 104). This seems unachievable. Maybe an MS
040 Math for Food Technology and Agriculture needs to be created. But
then MS 104 is a general education requirement and, based on the
original rejection of the first AAS application3, the
courses in gen ed cannot be major specific. That leads me to wonder
whether the certificate should be redesigned to require MS 095 like the
gen ed core to law enforcement or the major requirements of
bookkeeping. Of course the new MS 095 is elementary algebra - these
math decisions are going to affect curriculum across the college.
Meanwhile the certificate of achievement in preschool teacher
education, trial counselors, community health sciences-health assistant
training, and secretarial science require no mathematics whatsoever.
I have a sinking feeling that all certificate programs will have to be
looked at against the revised mathematics curriculum that now uses an
MS 090 PreAlgebra, MS 095 Elementary Algebra, and MS 098 Intermediate
Algebra. Adjustments to ensure that the appropriate level of math is
retained in the program will have to be made. Thus the law enforcement
and bookkeeping certificates, if they want to retain PreAlgebra as
their highest level of math, need to downshift from MS 095 to MS 090.
Other certificates might have to make similar adjustments.
With all due apologies for the length of this email,
1 This would
not solve the problem per se, there would still be students who
completed MS 090 taking the test. In the fall, however, new first-year
certificate students who were retaking the entrance test would likely
be in MS 065. I have to guess that a lot of our fall state campus
entrance testees are high school seniors making a second shot at
passing the entrance test.
2 Note that
not accepting students below the MS 090 PreAlgebra level would not
prevent the earlier situation of a certificate student "re-placing"
into MS 090 on the entrance test.
3 An initial application to
grant AAS degrees was rebuffed by the commission with comments that the
general education requirements were insufficient and appeared to
actually be specific to a particular major and thus not in keeping with
the spirit of a "general education" requirement. Some of this was
handled at a semantic level only - VMS 100 (Vocational math science
100) was relabeled MS 104 Technical Math. Some was handled by the
introduction of a humanities requirement, although I still remember a
former director of vocational education objecting, noting that he
really did not need a plumber who could spout poetry about water, he
wanted a plumber who could fix the water spout.
Chair Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
College of Micronesia-FSM
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