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Are students taking and succeeding in a single basic skills or ESL course and then not completing the next higher level course? Not good. We need to examine our curriculum.

Are students taking a single basic skills course and then going to a career technical course and completing a certificate or degree? Okay, maybe good. Don’t they need basic skills in these programs too?

Are students discouraged in the first basic skills courses and not even attempting higher level courses? Not good. Look at the persistence and registration rates of students.

Are the first ESL and basic skills courses so adequate that students do not need any more courses to complete their basic skills needs? Good, but highly unlikely.

Are the levels of rigor in the first basic skills and ESL courses inadequate, setting up failure or withdrawal scenarios in the next higher level course? Not good. We need to examine our curriculum.

Are the students who take these basic skills and ESL courses so fragile that they drop out of college, unable to progress? Not good, but not curricular in nature. Look into student services help.

Where are the students going after they initially succeed?  Are they attempting college level without prerequisites, abandoning their basic skills remediation? Yikes!  What is the rigor, retention status and class environments like in the college-level courses with no prerequisites?  Why don’t these classes have pre-requisites anyway?  Why do they only have advisories which are generally ignored?

Are the students bored, discouraged, unengaged, and/or needing financial aid? Not good. We need to examine BOTH our curriculum and our student services.

These are serious questions that are essential to healthy basic skills programs. You may have come up with additional reasons that these rates seem to be a mismatch. While any of the potential answers to the questions above might be relevant, a closer look revealed a pattern across the state. Even colleges that aggressively addressed basic skills and reported success using other local data appeared to have a disparity between success and progress.

What in the world was going on?  Because the Basic Skills Initiative created a statewide platform for serious discussion and a problem-solving mentality much like a think tank, many of the faculty, researchers and administrators became sleuths looking to solve the whodunit.  Discussions revealed that it was actually a data mystery! An analysis showed that the coding identifying the level of basic skills courses as one course lower or higher than one another was frequently wrong. This coding problem produced incorrect data about courses, student success and student progression.

Coding for Course Levels below College/Transfer level: CB 21 Coding

Chapter 12                                                                                                                                  5

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