Thanks, Obama!

(from here)
No shit.

I work as a tutor at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg OR, tutoring math and writing. Early last year our department got a new director, and he brought with him several new programs designed to increase student success. One of these programs implemented something called Core Skills Mastery, or CSM. The CSM program provides a tool for students who have a poor academic foundation to build their skills in math, reading, and writing so that they would be better prepared for college-level work.

I’ve been working with a small team that is tasked with getting students enrolled in CSM and seeing that they complete it successfully. It’s a free program and the college offers it with no strings attached. However, we’ve seen that potential students who go through the program have a sharp increase in their confidence levels, and often place into college-level writing and math classes. This means higher grades, higher retention levels, and more students graduating.

The implementation of this program has been so successful that our college is doing away with some of the lower level remedial math and writing classes.

And now our humble community college is one of 14 colleges being recognized by the White House for their efforts to build the academic abilities of their students. The 100+ colleges that met his challenge now have some company, which Obama will recognize at the Summit on College Opportunity this coming December. The work our department has done is, frankly, the only reason our college has been able to meet this challenge.

I have a week and half left in this job before moving to finish my undergrad at university. This is a wonderful send-off, and to be recognized for the amount of work I and my team have done in helping potential students is more than I ever expected.

Nice job. I’ve always been in favor of anything that helps get people ready for college-level work. What are the differences between the CSM program and a regular remedial math class?

I totally thought that was a sarcastic title.

I am going back to school and I have to do remedial testing. I’m hoping it helps me because I haven’t been in school for 20 years. I have to do this tomorrow.

Very cool.

Good job!

The CSM program is free, which is a huge plus. We are located in a small, very economically depressed part of the state. For years now many of our returning students have spent years pulling green chain or whatever, and their math and writing skills are abysmal. By offering the CSM program we give potential students an avenue to build up their math and writing ability that won’t cost them a dime. This is a huge benefit because there is no need to fill out a FAFSA, deal with financial aid, try to work out a academic schedule… at the core of it, it allows students to build up their skills to a college level without the pressures of college: money, grades, etc. The program is more or less self-paced, and is fairly short: someone who finished high school but hasn’t used algebra or trig in two decades can finish the program in a few weeks (think GED prep classes. Same basic curriculum). Some people need more help, and we offer one-on-one tutoring for free.

Before the CSM was implemented students had to sign up for remedial math, which was all for-credit courses. That’s the route I had to take. Go through the motions of getting financial aid, dealing with the grades and tests and deadlines… all part of college, but it can be difficult for someone who hasn’t had to deal with those issues in many years. In addition remedial skills classes, even taken for credit, don’t transfer to a university. Students don’t like that. By bypassing those classes and jumping ahead to transfer courses, students tend to feel like what they are doing matters more.

So which university are you headed to?

Done deliberately :).

Portland State University, studying computer science.

I’m a 9th grade dropout. I went back to school at 29 after working as a hospice worker for years and years. I started in one of those remedial math classes, and did so well in it and all my subsequent math classes that I now tutor it. CS will put my math skills to the test, I’ll learn some serious mathematical applications, and I’ll end up with a useful degree that will provide a backbone for (maybe) studying math in grad school.

Great! I hope you enjoy PSU.

AHA! I gotcha! You’re obviously a Canadian shill, trying to put a good face on Obama’s socialist plot to ruin the free market of education and student loans!

Well done, you!! <waving from Lane County>

I got my BS in Math in 2009, and my MST in Math in 2012, both at PSU. I know nothing about the CS department, but if you have any questions about the math department or any math classes/professors you’ll be taking, feel free to PM me.

Whatcha do in Lane?

What does “pulling green chain” mean?

Very cool. I know an EE professor at PSU, and have spoken to one of his grad students. It seems like a good place.

What’s the secret to the success of this program? What you guys have done is not easy to accomplish. Were the students really motivated? Did the self-pacing help?

Good job, I always enjoy a success story.

In large lumber mills, of which there are several locally, raw logs are fed into a series of saws that cut each differently, to maximize the number of boards that a given log can produce. The result is that each log becomes several 2X4s, 4X4’s, 1X4s, etc. These boards exit on a huge conveyor belt, and where it passes groups of guys whose job it is to pull certain boards out and stack. So one guy will pull all the 8ft 2X4s. The next guy will pull all the 10ft 2X4s. The next guy will pull all the 8ft 4X4s etc. until there are no boards left.

It is a completely shit job. Easily one of the most physically demanding jobs in existence, as any given sawmill can turn thousands of trees a day into lumber. The outflow of finished lumber is immense, and these guys spend all day on their feet, twisting back and forth holding heavy loads. It’s noisy, dusty, and injuries are very common. It sucks ass big time.

I’m not sure what we can credit the success of the program to. Part of the program is based online, so students have the option of doing a majority of the work at home. We supplement it, but I think a lot of students feel less pressure because it isn’t in a traditional classroom setting. The fact that it costs them nothing and so therefore they have nothing to lose is a common belief as well.

I think different people get different benefits from the program, but in the end the results are the same: a stronger foundation in math and writing.

Yes, well done fellow Oregonian! <waving from Marion County>