BC in the News: Making It Happen (MIH)

Janet Fulks 3

Janet Fulks leading the effort for the Making It Happen cohort

The Bakersfield Californian article about remedial education and the associated costs describes the stimulus for exciting new Bakersfield College strategies designed to help students complete their education plans more efficiently. The entire process begins with closer cooperation and communication with our high school colleagues. The plan uses a cohort of first time,first generation students from a program called CalSOAP – California Student Opportunity and Access a collaboration with CSUB. The BC students belong to a cohort called “Making it Happen” and a project that has four phases: 1) Improving placement practices including changing to Accuplacer and using multiple measures, 2) Connecting students with mentors who will provide personal guidance and contact, 3) Specific Classroom interventions including classroom alerts systems, 4)Predictive Analytics- the use of past data analysis to provide messaging to students that will help them succeed (like Amazon and Netflicks – “students who took this class had a 70% chance of passing if they completed tutoring). 33 mentors (8 administrators, 5 classifed staff and 20 faculty) will reach out to their mentees to provide to help provide the first generation students real-time help (since we have too few counselors?).

Kimberley Blingh Selfie July 27 2014

Kimberley Blingh, co-lead for the Making It Happen cohort

The efforts are already paying off. Similar students from past CalSOAP cohorts registered at BC at only 56-62%, but 90% of this cohort of 467 students have registered for classes. And the students registered as advised, addressing the remedial courses they need first and signing up for full loads instead of partial load. These two factors – (1) addressing remediation needs early and (2) taking a full load, have been shown through data analysis as factors that promote success in achieving educational goals. 70 of the students have signed up for summer student development bridges. One of the two summer bridge programs starts today, August 4th, and my student mentee is part of the program.

Here is the article with comments from Vickie Spanos, and our very own Janet Fulks and Kimberley Blingh (previously Van Horn).  Btw, Kern High School District has been a great partner and we plan on strengthening that partnership.


Bakersfield Californian: Sunday, Jul 27 2014 09:00 AM

Remedial education costing community college students

BY LAUREN FOREMAN, Californian staff writer lforeman@bakersfield.com


Two years ago, Lezlie Cranston, 20, took a placement test at Bakersfield College that landed her four course levels below college writing and three behind in reading.

In math, her weaker area in high school, she was behind three academic levels.

“It’s just, I don’t test well,” Cranston said.

The test results meant she had to complete more than two semesters of remedial courses. Taking the “academic development classes” pushed back her graduation — planned for this past spring — more than a year and will cost her family more than $1,000 including the price tag of four remedial writing courses she still needs to complete.

A statewide report released earlier this month by the nonprofit Campaign for College Opportunity shows Cranston is not alone: enrollment in pre-college level courses extends time in community college by more than a year and adds 20 extra needed credits, costing students thousands of dollars more.

Part of the problem is a disconnect between what students are learning in high school, what they need to know in college and how they are placed in college courses.

The problem is widespread.

Eighty-four percent of incoming Bakersfield College students must complete remedial courses before taking college math or English these days, according to Janet Fulks, a BC microbiology professor and student success researcher.

Very few of those students graduate anywhere close to on time.

Only 34.8 percent of BC students who took remedial courses in math or English in 2007-2008 were eligible to transfer to four-year schools, earn degrees or receive certificates within six years, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office said earlier this year.

It was the lowest completion rate for unprepared students at the college in at least five years.


Statewide, 40.5 percent of community college students who took remedial courses in math or English in 2007-2008 were eligible to transfer to four-year schools, earn degrees or receive certificates within six years.

The cost is high.

Community college students in the Los Angeles area who finish school on time spend about $15,000 — Campaign for College Opportunity wrote in its report. Students who take three years to finish two-year degrees pay about $7,600 more, or $22,700.

The cost more than doubles for students who take four years or more to earn a two-year degree.

Fulks, the BC instructor and researcher, said the problem is amplified in the Central Valley, where 80 percent of students are first-generation college attendees.

At Porterville College, 37.6 percent of students who took remedial math and English in 2007-2008 were eligible to graduate or transfer. The figure was 28.2 percent for Taft College and 37.2 percent for Cerro Coso Community College in Lake Isabella.

Fulks said they get stuck in a “remedial whirlpool.”

“They don’t know why they’re there. They don’t know how to get out, and we know from the data that they fail,” Fulks said.


Key to bringing down the number of students in remedial courses, Fulks said, is correctly determining which students need the courses in the first place.

Over the years, BC cut the number of advisors who place its approximately 8,000 students registering to four. It forced BC to rely mostly on a test to place students in courses despite state law requiring colleges to rely on multiple measures.

That’s changing. The school is getting more state funding to hire two additional counselors and plans to hire two more.

BC also rolled out a new system this spring that bases student placement on high school GPA, grades from the highest level of high school math and English taken and placement test results.

Fulks said students can place a level higher on placement tests if they got a C in the highest level of English and a B in the highest level of math in high school.

“We saved over 800 semesters of student time,” Fulks said.

Students would be better prepared for college, professors say, if they took four years of math in high school instead of the required three.

It’s an aim local high schools are backing but not requiring.


Kimberly Bligh, a remedial math, reading and writing instructor at BC, said a basic arithmetic class fills up three weeks after registration. About 90 percent of BC students have to take some level of remedial math.

Bligh said a fourth year of math in high school could significantly improve the amount of remediation needed in college.

It can, because of a change in BC policy, even help some students bypass remedial math — which like all other remedial classes doesn’t count toward college graduation requirements.

Still, the Kern High School District — from which 65 percent of BC students graduate — is not discussing a change in math requirements, said Vickie Spanos, director of instruction for KHSD.

“I don’t think we need to be discussing that necessarily,” Spanos said. “What I think is those students that are pushing toward college are pushing toward that fourth year of math.”

Cranston said she took three years of math but sees the benefit of four.

“It would help when you go into college,” she said. “But I think the high schools are trying to give you some leeway.”

Spanos added some students simply need remedial education. They don’t have the knowledge or maturity to be successful in college courses.

Vickie Spanos

Vickie Spanos


Spanos said KHSD recently implemented changes targeting those unprepared students as well as those improperly placed in remedial courses.

Some of the changes — a heightened focus on literacy, new state standards for learning and new standardized testing in high school — are already happening, Spanos said.

KHSD is also requiring all incoming freshman to take an English assessment test and bringing math teachers together to plan lessons to be used districtwide.

The high school district will also, starting this fall, have students develop long-term education plans in which they base their high school courseload on future goals.

And high school teachers and administrators will more closely collaborate with their local college and university counterparts.

“We’re not a unified district,” Spanos said. “We need to be a unified community of educators.”


Wednesday, Jul 30 2014 06:31 PM
THE GRADE: Cal-SOAP and Stuff The Bus
By Lauren Foreman, Californian staff writer lforeman@bakersfield.com

CAL-SOAP CHANGES UNDERWAY: Most days, incoming Bakersfield College freshman Carmen Murillo begins an 8-hour workday at 4 a.m. at The Garlic Company on Zerker Road. She travels from her home in Shafter to sort garlic to pay for her personal expenses.

“That is not a future,” Murillo said.

Ultimately, she wants to transfer to a university and develop a business to help families in need internationally.

Murillo is a first-generation college student and one of 450 incoming freshmen matched with BC mentors. The idea is to better monitor the course selection and academic success of students from low-income families who are either first-generation students like Murillo, or from areas with few college attendees.

The students are part of a state-funded program called the California Student Opportunity and Access Program (Cal-SOAP), which BC implemented in 2011.

The program will start the 2014-2015 year at BC with a Summer Bridge session next Thursday for about 170 students who volunteered to participate.

Summer Bridge is part of a larger BC goal to improve graduation and university transfer rates.

Fewer than half of BC students — 39.9 percent — reached that goal within six years of entering college in 2007-2008, according to a state community college scorecard.

Janet Fulks, a BC student success researcher, said she met a first-generation student in June who performed at the highest academic level on BC’s placement test in writing, reading and math, but signed up for culinary arts and child care courses based on an uncle’s advice.

“He just told me these are the classes girls should take,” Fulks said, repeating the student’s explanation.

Fulks said first-generation college students make up 80 percent of Central Valley students. Learning how to succeed in college is vital for them.

“They don’t even know how to think about what to do in the future,” she said.

BC began in Spring 2014 matching its 450 Cal-SOAP students with mentors, assigning them to BC staffers trained in special intervention and identifying them through an alert system matching them with tutoring services if they earn a grade of C or lower on their first tests.

Manny Mourtzanos and his mentee

Manny Mourtzanos with his student mentee Source: Bakersfield Californian

Emmanuel Mourtzanos — Murillo’s mentor and a BC dean of instruction — said he was a first-generation college graduate and understands how “navigating a system that is unfamiliar can be very daunting.”

He earned a doctorate in education from Seattle Pacific University in 2005.

“It’s easy to feel a lack of confidence,” Mourtzanos said.

But, he added, once students understand they deserve to be in college, they can achieve degrees.

One thought on “BC in the News: Making It Happen (MIH)

  1. Joe Saldivar August 4, 2014 at 9:23 am Reply

    Awesome. As I always tell my students, “BC is a great place to get an education, but GET OUT OF BC”! Sounds like this will give students the opportunity to GET OUT OF BC.

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