Making our developmental math programs work

This post is a shout-out to Steve Hinds, a very smart guy who is embroiled in the hard work of trying to figure out how to make developmental math programs work at CUNY. He’s doing great work which is not as widely-known as it should be. Here are two of his papers detailing his work over the last years: More Than Rules and More Than Reshuffling. He doesn’t use the phrase “Gen Ed” but he’s designing curriculum that accomplishes so much of what we’ve been discussing this year. For anyone who is teaching at CUNY, his discussion of the process, hurdles, and so on will give you food for thought. For those teaching math at the remedial level or above I highly recommend the appendices with some sample lessons.

I will tack on a link to a post on the EdVox blog from last November by John Garvey on teaching at CUNY, which features a quote from Steve but is worth reading in its own right.

Finally, this should perhaps have been included as a reply to the post Developmental courses and the First-Year Experience but I wasn’t sure how to embed documents in a reply.

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4 Responses to Making our developmental math programs work

  1. The Remediator says:

    Until he figures out how to scale the course (he uses like 120 hours!) and train faculty better (he hires them an entire semester before they teach), the program is likely going nowhere. The funny thing is in his section on “cost” he says $75 which is what the students pay. No doubt CUNY foots a big bill. And his samples aren’t exactly representative, but it is still quite promising. There are lots of great, sound principles though. It’s just not up to scale in his model. It will get there. I look forward to seeing the impact this makes. The students certainly deserve a better opportunity!

  2. Profile photo of Jonas Reitz Jonas Reitz says:

    Dear Remediator,

    I agree — in fact, I think the most important part of this experiment is the conclusion that we can do remediation well, provided we give it the proper resources (clearly our current remediation, though successful in some cases, has a generally abysmal track record). Maybe the question CUNY should be asking is “what resources do we need to devote to remediation to make it successful?”

    Jonas

  3. Steve Hinds says:

    Thank you for your comments, Jonas. I suggest folks start with More Than Reshuffling and move to More Than Rules if more detail is sought on the actual lessons and classroom practices. I would like to try and address the first set of comments on the intensity of instruction and faculty development, and the related issue of resources.

    It’s best to look at “More Than Reshuffling” for a fuller discussion of instructional intensity, but I will mention a few points here. It is true that CTI uses a lot of instructional time in Phase One (and more for those students who need additional instruction in Phase Two), but this should be looked at in the context of how remediation currently operates. Most students in the traditional system are not successful in a single remedial math course (often 60 hours in length), and an even smaller share of students are successful when they repeat that course. In many instances, then, students already are studying 120 or 180 hours to try and pass through one remedial math course. We should also remember that most CTI students actually have two levels of remedial math needs (pre-algebra and algebra), and the majority of those students have successfully completed both remedial levels after Phase One instruction (and the vast majority after Phase Two instruction). The Phase One/Phase Two structure allows for important differentiation for students. Some need only 12 weeks to pass through one or both remedial levels. Others may need 18. The structure allows for this.

    One of the larger points I am trying to make in the paper is that we should have more ambitious learning goals for our students—goals that go beyond memorization and rote usage of procedural knowledge. If we are aiming to also improve students’ conceptual understanding, reasoning, communication, and other elements of a broader notion of mathematical proficiency, we will need to invest to accomplish this.

    In terms of faculty development, I am not sure that you are suggesting that we do it “better”, but that we do it cheaper. The kinds of changes in thinking that I am suggesting regarding the role of teachers and students in the classroom are significant, and in order to really understand and execute them, time is needed. In my view, faculty development needs to include more time in actual classrooms and not just in meeting rooms, and structures exist at the campuses to release faculty from a course for a semester to do these kinds of intensive activities. Also at the present time, governments and foundations are investing more than ever before in developmental education innovations. This is the perfect opportunity to put investments right where I believe they will have the most impact—in improving instruction.

    In terms of cost, and I am not an expert in budgets, my understanding is that students sitting in CTI classes generate FTE reimbursements for the colleges in the same way that other students in community college courses do. It is actually very similar to the CLIP program, which is largely supported through these reimbursements, with very modest student fees.

    And finally, it is true the CTI students were not a part of any randomized trial, but I would suggest that their progress is important as we think about how to help students who typically struggle at community colleges. CTI has targeted students with GED diplomas and very high remedial needs, and these students earn college degrees at CUNY at very, very low rates.

    Thanks for this discussion!

  4. Profile photo of Jonas Reitz Jonas Reitz says:

    Steve, welcome and thanks for joining the discussion!
    -Jonas

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