Local high school students get college jump-start
April 7, 2014
From leadertelegram.com: “Local high school students get college jump-start” — Ashley Carlson’s notebook page was neatly divided into two parts, with topics on the left side of the paper and details on the right.
Also on the left side of the page, Carlson wrote notes to herself, reminders such as “Double Check” and “New Stuff.”
Carlson, an Eau Claire Memorial High School senior, was learning valuable study skills along with algebra in her first-ever class on a college campus.
Area students have been taking college-level classes while still in high school through advanced placement and dual credit programs for some time. But twice a week Carlson sits in a classroom at Chippewa Valley Technical College with 23 other Memorial and Eau Claire North High School students, learning not only algebra skills but how to study effectively as well.
The goal of the program is to increase the odds of students completing college by giving them an early taste of it.
The experience was made possible through a College Success grant from the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corp. With the grant, CVTC and the Eau Claire school district implemented the class as part of the Collaboration for Postsecondary Success (CAPS) program.
“We want them to get the college experience within the institution,” said CVTC academic services instructor Molly Craker, the grant coordinator. “We want them on our campus so they are introduced to our resources such as academic services, diversity resources, academic advisors and counselors.”
College dropout rates are higher for students from minority groups, low-income families, and first-generation college students. The CAPS program targets students from such groups.
“We were looking for students with a high likelihood of post-secondary attendance who could benefit from the program,” said Dianna Zeegers, an Eau Claire school district instructor who teaches college success strategies in the CAPS program.
Students gain credit toward their high school graduation and credit at CVTC that can be transferred to other institutions. The content instructor for the class is CVTC math teacher Mike Davis.
“We teach intermediate algebra, but the bigger lessons being learned are the opportunities that college can present.” Davis said. “They get treated as adults and some of them are not used to that as high school students.”
Among the lessons students said they learn by participating in the program is that success in college takes work.
“One of the first things (Davis) said to us was if you are not going to use your time well in class, there’s no point being here,” said Carlson. “It helps me to take class time a lot more seriously.”
The college experience involves much more than not having to get a hall pass to go to the bathroom. Much of students’ work is done online through a program called MyMathLab, which allows students to learn and work at home.
“They use an electronic textbook, which may be new to many of them,” Craker said.
Students notice, too, that the college will work with them to help them succeed. Many students make use of the Academic Services Center.
“I go there every Wednesday,” Memorial senior Kayli Werk said of the Academic Services Center. “The lady down there is super-helpful. Instead of giving you the answer, she’ll give you worksheets to help you understand it.”
Werk said Davis encourages students to ask questions and shows concern that students understand the concepts.
“I’m not really good at math,” said Carlson. “It’s shocking to me that I’m doing so well.”
Davis said the students he teaches generally are ready for the college work.
“Some of the students have had math at the level we are teaching. For some it is very new to them,” Davis said. “But they are all learning personal responsibility.”
Zeegers helps students with that part of the class. On a recent day she taught them the divided-page method of taking good notes, called “Cornell Notes,” and modeled it on an easel in front of the class. “As they progress through the class, I give them feedback on their notes and assess them on that,” Zeegers said.
The hybrid college/high school class seems to be well-received by participating students.
“I signed up because I thought I would get a taste of what college math would be like,” North senior Dave Zook said. “It’s going all right. We’re getting into some new stuff, but people are good at helping us out.”
Carlson said the algebra class is a good warm-up for her future education plans, which include attending CVTC next school year.
“This was an awesome opportunity,” Carlson said.
Davis said he’s happy to see his students advance their math skills as they mature into young adults.
“There’s definitely a handful of them that we know we have changed their path,” Davis said. “And when they say ‘I don’t know what I want to do,’ we help them work through that.”