Where are we then after all this?

1) Undeniably closer to a mandatory five-day District Wide Faculty Development Week (DWFDW). As you probably saw, Dean Metoyer sent out an email this week announcing, as a courtesy to faculty for planning purposes, that (still tentative) plans are moving ahead at district for a week of all day activities running August 9th through the 13th, which it seems will not count toward the thirty hours of registration. I am 99% sure they will be limited to six hours per day by the contract (we work 30 hour weeks by the contract (insert snort here) and there is a clause that says faculty cannot be assigned to more than 6 hours per day of registration duties (I presume this also applies to non-registration duties during the registration period, but I’m not completely sure about that)).

2) HW faculty have been pretty clear about their feelings on this development. Our poll about DWFDW got 43 votes (out of the 114 of so full time faculty). 37 (86%) thought it was a bad idea for 2010 (for various reasons), and 4 more (9%) were unsure. Only two (5%) were in favor of it for Fall 2010. That’s pretty solid response and resistance to the idea of a DWFDW in the fall.

The resistance, it should be noted, is NOT to the idea of faculty development in general—in fact there is very strong support for local faculty development, likely attributable to the great work of our CAST committee over the last five years or so, under the leadership of Art DiVito, Jen Armendarez, Janvier Jones and Chris Sabino, and faculty awareness of the literature on effective professional development for educators (like this, “Professional development should be job-embedded and site specific.” And this, “The all-to-common failure to involve teachers in the planning and delivery of professional development undermines its legitimacy and efficacy.” (For more on research related to educational professional development check out this or this or this or this as starting points. If you have more, post them in the comments!)).

Most of the objections in the comments seem to revolve around the way this was done (i.e., the general impression is that, with little advance thought or consideration, existing plans have been chucked in favor of an ill defined “program” of “training” that faculty will have little input into given the timing of the planning) rather than to the idea itself (e.g., here).  I read the majority of the comments to suggest that HW faculty recognize the value—even necessity—of some District Wide conversation and collaboration, but decry the fact that it comes at the expense of (equally or more urgent) local conversation and collaboration.  See, for example: here or here.

The votes, on the other hand, suggest a different story. 63% of those voting (27 out of 43) say that FDW should be local only. That’s a significant plurality that should not be ignored (as a young philosopher rightly points out here), even if that position is not as clearly advocated in the comments.

(It should be noted that for this “analysis” I am assuming that all of the voters were full time faculty since A) adjuncts are relatively unaffected by this*; B) traffic to the blog had dribbled down to a handful of visitors a day during finals week (when the post went up); and C) the email announcing the post went out to full time faculty only. There may be an adjunct or two in there, but I doubt it. In any case, the point is that there is significant and widespread opposition to a DWFDW in Fall 2010. Not a huge surprise in itself, but it’s nice to have a solid sense of things outside of our subjective guesses. Big thanks to the faculty who shared their thoughts on the matter. (*There is likely to be some effect on adjuncts though. I’ve known some who went to and enjoyed Faculty Development Week at HW. It seems that the DWFDW will not include adjuncts (if the first meetings minutes are any indication), effectively cutting out a rare PD opportunity for them. I wonder what, if anything, they will have to say about it?))

3) What the faculty wants to happen in light of the reality of the situation—the somewhat delicate politics of a new chancellor’s first initiative and the scattering of burnt out faculty for the summer vacation—is somewhat less clear. There were half as many votes (21) for the “action” poll, though most of those who voted (17—81%) advocated for sending a letter of objection to someone (one of those was in the “Other” category but was explained in the comments as being a vote for the letter with an emphasis on cordiality).

As that discussion developed, Sabino got an email from Metoyer on May 19th saying DWFDW looked “like a done deal,” which launched a round of FC discussion, including the expression of hesitance from two members whose doubts/ideas included wanting to avoid creating the impression of a “judgmental and difficult” faculty, questions about who should be the signatory of the letter (FC, the HW Faculty, the heads of committees and groups, the union, other Faculty Councils, FC4 etc.), and whether we should re-discuss with faculty in light of the different circumstances (a seeming certainty rather than probable possibility).

As of May 20th, three members were on record as being in favor of sending the letter, with one suggesting that it should go to VC Henderson. Two members did not weigh in, but followed along. One member was opposed to sending the letter (unless it came from HW faculty, but even then generally opposed), and one member was in favor of circulating the letter informally among HW administration, and other groups such as the Union, etc., to build “a base of resistance” and consensus for addressing future situations of this sort.  Later that same day, after more discussion, the latter agreed to sending the letter, though not without lingering hesitance, and with the suggestions that we 1) let John (Wozniak) know what we are doing; 2) inform the other FCs and invite them to join; and 3) develop a position statement on PD.

That same day, Loos reached out to Eason-Montgomery to find out where FC4 is on the whole thing, and her response suggested that, though aware of the proposal, FC4 Executive Committee did not have plans to address it until after the fact. They definitely did not address it at their last meeting (which was not attended by most of the mighty powers due to a conflicting budget meeting; Cecilia was there, but encouraged by the FC4EC to go to the budget meeting instead.). “[W]e are aware of the FDW plans (but don’t know the details). We will resume the discussion when the District Faculty Council resumes session in the Fall,” she wrote.

So, with four of seven HW Council members agreeing to a theoretical version of the letter, I expect one to go out from HWFC (at least the supporting members) to someone (TBD) this week or early next week at the latest, and I am guessing that we’ll honor the suggestions of our colleague to circulate the letter to HW administrators (who likely already know of its existence, but it’s an important courtesy) and other FCs. I will post a copy of the letter here once it is drafted and signed, so you’ll know what we said.

Like others, I don’t expect the recipients of the letter to read it and suddenly see the clear light of reason illuminating the error of their ways causing them to suddenly revise the plans they are so busily engaged in crafting. Instead, I hope it is one piece of the ongoing, committed effort  of all faculty to make sure that we do all we can to prevent what is bad in bad ideas while being part of the solution to the real and numerous professional problems and challenges we face, remembering all along that we face most of these challenges shoulder to shoulder with our administration. Like many of those in the comments have said (Realist, Alchemist, et. al.), I think it’s important for all of us to remember that we are not at war with anyone, and the vast majority of our administrators want the same things we do and are motivated by ideas not entirely at odds with our own (which I write as if I can speak of the faculty as a monolithic whole–itself a dangerous idea).

Some of you may remember the great email war of April 2007  that I waged with Art DiVito and Mike Ruggeri about over The Academic Freedom Newsletter and their preemptive criticism of those (admittedly, mostly awful) Faculty Development Seminars. As awful as some of them were (I got to watch a PowerPoint presentation on “Active Learning” in the one I went to—I never get tired of telling people that), I was reminded as this debate went on of a point I made then, made again by Kamran Swanson in the comments—that we should not turn our backs on opportunities to learn, since that position undercuts the very point of what we’re committed to, professionally speaking and should instead get involved to make them better. This situation is different in a lot of ways than that one (primarily that those seminars did not replace any local, better endeavors), but similar enough to raise some of the same considerations. I’ve also been somewhat persuaded by the arguments of those who say we would all benefit from a little more cross institutional time, especially at the discipline (or at least department) levels and broader awareness of the strengths and challenges of the other schools in the system. In any case, there are a lot of questions in play here, and I think it’s important that we keep thinking about how to carefully untangle them so we answer all of them to the best of our ability.

I guess my point is that where this goes from here—after the initial discussion and flurry and the letter and the like—is up to you, the person reading this, and I encourage you to think about your own ideas regarding Faculty Development and what it ought to look like. I encourage you to express your personal dissatisfaction (by letter or email or whatever), if you have any, to our administrators, as well as district (actually, I think now that maybe we should have encouraged that from the start even as we worked to develop a more formal response. So it goes) and attend the planning meetings to try, at least, to mould the offerings in a better direction than they might otherwise take. If nothing else, do what you can to make sure that our one day at HW (likely, Monday August 9th) is a valuable, impactful one.

Or, if you’d like, express your support for the idea. Volunteer to present or at least attend the planning meetings or  start thinking about how to approach (and win over) those of us who will be resistant to the idea.

And all of you should think about how we might be able to use this situation (all angles of it from start to finish) as a learning experience. Some of your colleagues have already started making such suggestions as here and here and here and here. Sign up, speak up, or act up—your choice. Just don’t drop it here, at least not completely. My final request is that you keep the rest of us informed about what you’re doing or planning so we can help, argue, or stay out of the way.

I’ll have another update in the next few weeks as things develop. In the meantime, let’s keep talking and thinking about it…

Friday Spotlight–Faculty Development Week Action

UPDATE: Bumped up for 24 hours of any final discussion on the subject before it goes to Faculty Council for action. Please note: regular features like “Tuesday Teaching Question” and “Website Wednesday” will be on hiatus over the summer break. Watch for a post on “Summer in the Lounge” later this week.

Ok, so 72ish hours later, I guess it’s time for some discussion of the action plan. Options discussed at the May Faculty Council meeting included the following:

A) Do nothing. The benefits of this approach are that we do not immediately jump off on the wrong foot with our new Chancellor. She has a vision for the city colleges, and apparently something of a mandate (did you see this?) to impose her vision. It might be wise to wait and see, picking our ground for a fight, should one come, over a non-negotiable, rather than over an unfortunate inconvenience whose damage is (likely to be, if there is any) contained to lost opportunities to learn and wasted time, which while bad enough, is not the same as devastating harm to students. The fact is, we’re contractually not working starting on Saturday, and we’re off until August when their operation would welcome us back. Perhaps by doing nothing we cost ourselves some annoyance, but avoid a lot more.

B) State our objections in the hopes of negotiating out a better outcome than we’d get by doing nothing. The risk is obvious, I suppose. No administrator is going to be willing to step out, I suspect (except maybe John or Chuck Guengerich–the other Presidents are too new, and the rest of the Deans and VPs are probably not that interested in the Chancellor’s dog house), and say no to something  Chancellor Hyman wants. Still, maybe there is room for reasoned argumentation. There’s a ton of literature that says for PD to be effective it has to be data driven (justified by data showing need and qualified by data showing impact) and it has to respond to faculty needs, not be imposed from above. The topics proposed are topics, as it says in the draft letter, that have been covered before. Either the old training was worthless or the new training is redundant. The admins haven’t made a case either way–maybe by letting them know that they should (according to best practices), we can help drive them toward doing what they expect us to do, namely making data driven, outcome oriented decisions that positively impact student learning. The letter would be the means for doing this. Discussion of the drafting process (ongoing) is here.

3) Non cooperation and non participation: this is going a little beyond “doing nothing.” By not cooperating, faculty would be sending the message that we will not simply go along with or even bother engaging with decisions that are not learning driven, student focused, and professionally useful. There would be no letter, no objections, no stink–just a clear message of inaction. The DWFDW is not yet mandated, and even if it were, they still can’t make us talk or learn. Even if we have to show up, we need not cooperate.

4) Active opposition and organization all summer long. Ever see Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. These could, theoretically, be our playbook. Perhaps the best strategy to adopt is one aggressive opposition.

What’s your vote?

P.S.  Here are the official meetings from last week FDW task force meeting.FDW Task Force – Meeting 1 – Official Minutes

A Letter about DWFDW

So far 28/33=85% agree that DWFDW should not occur Fall 2010.  3/33=9% are  on the fence about it or are on the fence.  There’s been a lot of traffic to yesterday’s post about the district proposal for DWFDW.  I know PhiloDave was going to post something tomorrow about what we’re going to do next, but I’m going to jump the gun slightly.

First of all, if you haven’t voted in the poll, please do so and check out some of the replies/reply to the post. The more input we have, the better.

In terms of moving forward, Theresa Carlton, Math faculty, has drafted a letter for Chancellor Hyman and V.C Henderson.  If we decide to express our concern in written form, this is definitely a good start.  Here’s the link to the letter in Google docs (my new best friend).  If you’d like to add to this letter, please reply to this post and I can give you access (I’d just need your e-mail address).  I thought this would be better than giving access to anyone with the link in case we have other visitors to the site.

This letter came as a result of conversations that Theresa and I have had over the past day, though she’s the author and deserves the credit for it.  Is there anything we should add (other than a conclusion)?  Is the tone suitable?  If we send it, when should we?  Who should sign it?  (Theresa? FC? CAST? HWC faculty?, etc.)  Do we want faculty from across the district involved in expressing our concerns to district?  Should we act or wait to see what happens since nothing is set in stone with respect to DWFDW?

Faculty Development Week–Bane or Joy? You Decide!

As you may already know, on Tuesday, May 4th, our CAST coordinator, Chris Sabino, received notice from the district that three days later, May 7th, a District Wide Faculty Development Week (DWFDW) Task Force would be meeting at Malcolm X to discuss plans for fall faculty development programs. Given that Chris and numerous CAST members had already done significant work in planning HW’s annual Faculty Development Week program, the news was both surprising and a little disconcerting. Three CAST contributors–Myra Cox, Ephrem Rabin, and Jeff Swigart–were able to attend the DWFDW Task Force meeting, and Jeff agreed to share his notes from the meeting with the faculty.

The faculty in attendance received this proposal (which I will allow to speak for itself–however with strong encouragement that you read it; it is full of (perhaps unintentional) delights, and I mean that both literally and ironically). There will certainly be more posts on this topic in the weeks to come, but it is urgent that we, Faculty Council, get some feedback on this topic if we are going to have any chance to influence anything about it, and I will limit my editorializing here in this post to saying that we believe (I’m pretty sure that I can speak for the whole council on this) that faculty should have the primary influence on Faculty Development activities, whether they are local or district wide. Please take a look at the proposal and Jeff’s notes from the meeting and post your initial responses in the comments. Also, please be sure to vote and encourage your colleagues to do the same. Arguments are easier to make with numbers. Special thanks to Myra, Ephrem, and Jeff for their attendance and reporting of these developments.

District-Wide Faculty Development Week Task Force
Meeting #1, 5/7/2010, Malcolm X College
Facilitated by President Ghingo Brooks and Vice Chancellor Angela Henderson.
HWC Representatives in Attendance:  Myra Cox, Ephrem Rabin, Jeffrey Swigart
Jeffrey Swigart’s Notes of the Meeting

FDW Task Force – Proposal Handout

Pres. Brooks shared that he proposed idea of district-wide FDW earlier this year.  VC Henderson shared that this fits with Chancellor Hyman’s vision of better connecting the city colleges.  The implementation date was originally planned for August 2011, but Chancellor Hyman likes the idea so much she would like it implemented this coming August of 2010. The purpose of this meeting was to allow about 2 faculty members to represent each college as a task force.

The purpose of district-wide FDW is to share best practices and other ideas district-wide.  More details are on attached handout that was given out at meeting.  Here is the rough proposed schedule:
Monday:  District-Wide Convocation
Tuesday:  Universal Teaching Strategies
Wednesday:  Assessment
Thursday:  Best Practices in Academic Disciplines
Friday:  City Colleges of Chicago Showcase

*Discussion of Each College’s FDW Schedules:
Faculty from each college shared what they had planned so far for their individual FDW’s.  The goal was to try to incorporate the best ideas from each college into the district-wide schedule.  Some colleges were very far in their planning, even having already booked outside speakers for specific times, while other colleges just had rough ideas.  I shared the list provided to me by Chris Sabino of talks that CAST had planned so far, enough to fill 3 days.

*Discussion of Concerns:
Faculty shared two primary concerns regarding the proposal.  First, some expressed concern that their individual colleges’ FDW 2010 has already been planned so far that it would be better to implement the district-wide FDW in 2011.  Second, some expressed concern that much individual college business is taken care of during the individual
FDW’s.  VC Henderson replied that district-wide FDW is important to Chancellor Hyman’s vision and asked that everyone present get on board.  She also suggested that faculty find ways throughout the semester to take care of business that may have in the past been taken care of during individual FDW’s.

*Topic Ideas for District-Wide FDW:
President Brooks expressed that there seems to be much overlap in topics at colleges’ individual FDW’s, and so it will be beneficial to share resources and use these topics at the district-wide FDW.  He also shared that district-wide FDW could have time set aside for individual college business.  Many potential topics were discussed, including the following:  technology across the curriculum, reducing remediation, changes in foundational studies, data-driven decisions in the classroom, increasing graduation rates, academic advising, *PeopleSoft, educating future teachers, SLO’s, syllabus-writing, service learning, HLC and its upcoming changes, careers, academic freedom (potential well-known speaker from AAUP), panel discussions with faculty and/or students, purpose of education
(potential big name speaker such as Oprah or Maya Angelou).  Many faculty expressed that it is important to pick topics that are broad enough to apply to everyone, in order to make district-wide FDW helpful and significant to everyone.

*Specific Contributions by HWC Representatives:
Myra Cox shared detailed ideas of talks regarding educating future teachers and the many district-wide issues related to this.  Ephrem Rabin made many suggestions regarding topics related to technology, and Pres. Brooks specifically asked Ephrem to consider being a speaker.  I (Jeffrey Swigart) shared the idea John Hader gave me of having Dr. Pamela Proulx-Curry speak about service learning as part of a program that SENCER and CPS are willing to help fund.

The steering committee of the chancellor and the college presidents will meet discuss the suggestions of the task force.  Ephrem Rabin will set up a Blackboard site.  Follow up meetings of the task force will take place in June or July.

Interesting Things Afoot at HW Partner, Shimer College

From the Chronicle yesterday:

The Board of Trustees of Shimer College voted on Monday to fire President Thomas K. Lindsay, a member of the board has confirmed on the condition of anonymity…The decision to oust Mr. Lindsay follows recent votes of no confidence by both Shimer’s faculty and its Assembly, the college’s governing body. The directors of Shimer’s Alumni Association had also called for Mr. Lindsay’s resignation.

HWC has had an interesting and productive relationship with Shimer for a couple of years now, even as they’ve battled their way through months of controversy. If you haven’t been following it, you can check out some of it here. Locally, The Chicago Reader has been the only place really covering the shenannigans over there (see this article and this one.

And if you don’t know anything about Shimer, read this (about the move downtown in 2007) and this (about the previous 135 years of the college’s existence), and then go talk to John Hader about how our students can take classes there at HW prices.

At any rate, it’s nice to see a community with shared governance that then has to fight to keep it and manages to win the fight. Enough to give us all hope.

Math Meeting Update #1

Theresa Carlton, our math reporter, was kind enough to share this summary of the Math Faculty’s mandatory meeting last Wednesday:

John Squires, Chair of the Math Department at Chattanooga State Community College, formerly the Chair of the Math Department at Cleveland State Community College (both in Tennessee), gave a full day presentation on the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) redesign guidelines and the Emporium Model redesign that he established for Cleveland State CC.  The faculty were reserved, quiet and respectful during the first hour of his presentation. Then, Mr. Squires opened the floor for questions.  Being the strong, well-informed faculty body that we are at CCC, poor Mr. Squires found himself peppered with questions about his Emporium redesign, before he even had a chance to give his presentation on it.  He addressed the questions with many “we’ll talk about that later” comments.

Michael Maltenfort of Truman College asked the question that we have all been wondering, “Would you recommend moving the developmental courses out of the hands of the full-time faculty [and into pre-credit] with this redesign?”  Mr. Squires responded that the redesign “does not work without the full-time faculty” and he would not recommend handing these courses over entirely to adjunct faculty.  As the day wore on, Mr. Squires became increasingly frustrated as our faculty brought up Union issues and teaching load requirements.  At one point, Angela Henderson, who was with us the entire day, stood up and said that she would be happy to address these questions at the end of Mr. Squires’ presentation.  This of course, never happened, but the thought was there.

After lunch, in some random, haphazard way, we were put into groups and assigned different classrooms to gather and answer a series of questions:  Would we be willing to begin the redesign with a blank slate rather than simply adopting a pre-existing redesign model? What are some of the problems with the developmental math courses? What are some possible solutions?  I think there were more questions, but given that we only had about 10 minutes to address them, we did not get that far.  We reassembled to share our answers, and then the meeting ended.

So, what am I not telling you?  Well, Keith McCoy (current Faculty Council President and Wright College Math faculty) has taken a position working at the district, beginning, I believe, at the end of this semester.  I had a private chat with Keith in which I learned that the district does not want to use the Emporium model for CCC.  This has to do with Union issues as well as lack of space and computers.  So why was Mr. Squires our guest speaker? Your guess is a good as mine.  What was the point of the meeting? To get us thinking about redesigning our developmental math classes.  As of right now, there is no plan in place, no timeline, no rules.  Basically, the district wants us to “do something”, they don’t care what, as long as it is something kind of dramatic, as opposed to just tweaking what we currently do.  Another faculty member, who spoke with Dr. Lopez, was told the exact same thing.

So, now for my opinion:

Getting the Math Faculty together to discuss developmental math, the problems, the curriculum, and possible solutions is a great idea.  However, we did not get any time to actually do this.  The presentation by John Squires, I felt, was pointless.  An Emporium model of developmental math is not something that we want, nor is it something that is feasible for the City Colleges.  There seemed to be a lot of confusion among the faculty, since administration never made clear the purpose, goals and expected outcomes of this meeting.  Are we supposed to try to adopt the Emporium Model? Are we supposed to come up with our own model? Does each college have to do the same thing, or does our autonomy still hold in this circumstance?  Is there a timeline for this? What purpose did the speaker hold?  Angela Henderson did say that she would answer questions, but then never did, even though the speaker ended 30 minutes early.  Administrative feedback was given to individual faculty, but never to the entire group, so many left not knowing what to do next.

In fact, none of us understood why it was necessary to miss a day of classes for a meeting, that, in all honesty, was a waste of time and money.  The administration would have been better off asking each department separately for ideas on how to improve the developmental math courses, and then after compiling the ideas and distributing them to us to review, they could have brought the faculty together to ask questions, debate, share, and perhaps do something productive.


Developments in Developmental Math (Part I)

Do you know what’s going on with Developmental Math courses? Lots, apparently.

On February 10th, our math faculty received an email from Dean Metoyer informing them of a mandatory, all day meeting of all district full-time math folks at Malcolm X.

The meeting will feature a presentation and workshop by John Squires whose “Do the Math” project won the 2009 Bellwether Award given by the Community College Futures Assembly. Since this meeting is scheduled during a class date, faculty who teach math will need to schedule alternative educational activities for their classes. If faculty choose to schedule a quiz or test for this date, please consider how the College can assist faculty in finding appropriate proctors.

Needless to say, the math faculty members were not overjoyed. One colleague wrote back, saying, “This term, M/W classes already have TWO holidays not shared by Tu/Th classes. How, in the name of quality education, can you force us to be away a THIRD day? There must be another arrangement that can be had.” He also asked for a little background on the presentation and cc’d Perry Buckley, President of Local 1600.

And so there are clearly two issues here: the scheduling of the meeting and the content. The scheduling is the simpler of the two, so I’ll cover it first, here. Apparently Truman faculty have been aware of the meeting for a few weeks, and raised the same issue (regarding the Wednesday schedule). Once everyone else heard about the meeting, they echoed the sentiment, and Perry describes them as “universally furious.” He said that he spoke with (Interim) Chancellor Lewis about the meeting and that she had not realized that students would miss a third class. She promised to “look into it,” and Perry trusts her to do so.

On the same topic, in an email to local Faculty Councils, Keith McCoy, the President of District Wide Faculty Council, addressed the Board on February 11th and raised the issue with them, proposing the alternative of “obtaining faculty volunteers from each college who would attend, as well as, those who do not have teaching obligations at the time of the meeting.” In an email accompanying his address, he wrote to the Faculty Council representatives that he had spoken with Vice Chancellor Angela Henderson, who told him that it was not the intention of District to mandate the meeting, but that that request had come from the ODs meeting (Officers of the District, i.e., College Presidents). As for why it has to be on Wednesday, March 10th, Perry “was told” (he said the passive voice was purposeful) by someone that it is the only day the speaker is available, a point which he, understandably, doubts.

Perry goes on to say, “As these matters are primarily academic they are more the [purview] of Faculty Council rather than the Union. There is no contract language whereby we can grieve a mandatory class cancellation. I would advise all math faculty to consult with Faculty Council President Keith McCoy (Wright) as he is also a math faculty. He may, combined with the unity of math faculty and the Union’s support, be able to find a better date for this meeting.” Both he and Keith McCoy reminded faculty of the rule that always applies to unsavory administrative directives, “Comply.” Tenure does not protect any of us from punishment for insubordination.

If I were in Vegas and could find someone willing to take my bet, I would lay down a big stack of chips on the meeting taking place on March 10th and being mandatory for all Math faculty, which seems to me like a classic case of administrative short-sightedness, guaranteeing an aggravated, hostile audience for what would, under the best of circumstances, be an extremely controversial and challenging proposal. If I were a conspiracist (Ruggeri!), which I’m not, I might even think that it was intentional to create a negative atmosphere so that they could paint faculty as intractable and obstructionist, thereby dismissing any germane academic objections to the proposal. For the life of me, though, I can’t figure out what they were thinking, except to say that they weren’t.

A Preview of the Proposal (and Responses) in Part II coming up this afternoon.

Developments in Developmental Math (Part II)

At least one thing is pretty much certain: the district is moving ahead with a massive redesign of Developmental Math. The first steps were taken at the Board meeting on February 11th, where there were changes made to the pre-credit math classes. Perry Buckley’s (Union President) description of the changes follows; “[t]hese courses, taught now by AFSCME members, will be called the “Foundations” program. The pay will change and the number of hours their workers can work will be reduced.”

He goes on to say that he’s “been told” that it is the district’s intention to move all developmental math courses into the Foundations program (and so, out of the hands of full time faculty). This is an important point. Via HW Math faculty member, Theresa Carlton (lots more from her to come), “Moving the Math 98 and 99 courses into pre-credit will eliminate 50% of the course offerings available to full-time faculty at HW. This number is higher at some of our sister colleges. Given that we have district-wide seniority, the possibility that we may be bumped from courses at our home campuses and be forced to fulfill our load requirement at other colleges does exist.” Perry suggests that the ultimate goal of the mandatory meeting is to sell the Math faculty on the change.

What are these changes, you might ask, other than a change of faculty? Fair question, but first the pitch…

In an email sent Saturday (2/20) afternoon from President Wright President, Chuck Guengerich to Henry Herzog, Wright Local Faculty Council, and the Wright faculty, President Guengerich writes:

We do know however that the vast majority of our students enter with less than college level skills. This is especially true in math where greater than 90% of Wright students enter at the Foundational Studies (formerly pre-credit) or Math 099 level. The vast majority never successfully reach a general education level math course and then will never complete a degree. Even for those who successfully complete math or Foundational Studies only about 1 in 4 succeeds. What it does tell us that we have to redesign math developmental education ( Please note the statistics are similar across the District.)

There have been some interesting new national models that have evolved over the past several years. The model developed by John Squires in Ohio has achieved over a 70 percent success rate and has been duplicated a four other colleges with similar success stories. The Squires model has won two Bellwether Awards at the Community College Futures assembly.

CCC is bringing Mr. Squires to the District on March 10 and all math full time math faculty are being required to attend. As A District and a college we should have a sense of urgency in looking to research and test new methodologies in developmental education.

Keith McCoy, District wide Faculty Council President and Math faculty member, showed his concurrence, broadly speaking with his College President’s message in his address to the board on February 11th, saying:

The completion and success rates out of CCC developmental math courses, including Foundational Studies (formerly Pre-credit), Math 098 and Math 099, are abysmal. I remember a few years ago the district success rate was a low 40% with no one college receiving over 50%. This is a national issue and not just a local one. Many of us, both faculty and administration, have known this from some time and have endeavored to improve these rates to little avail. Now, we have reached the point where change must occur in the developmental math curriculum. It is because of this very need to change that CCC administration is actively looking to redesign our math curriculum and is looking at good practices and successes that are occurring at other institutions. The importance of this need for redesigning of the developmental math curriculum, while presented very credibly by VC Henderson to district faculty council, has not been communicated well to faculty.

Mr. Squires received the 2009 Bellwether Award for Instructional Programs and Services for spearheading Cleveland State Community College’s course redesign project for developmental and college-level math courses. Cleveland state has had remarkable success with this project that truly warrants its review. While I myself have questions and concerns about the project and this project may not entirely fit the needs of CCC, faculty must be involved and engaged in curricular discussions regarding any CCC redesign efforts. Faculty must also be proactive in participating in driving these efforts. Regardless of whether the meeting mandate holds or is altered (I wish for the latter), going forward, I hope that the college presidents will at least relay a better message emphasizing the importance of this meeting and the involvement of all math instructors in this process so that we can all be on board with any redesign efforts.

That last point is one that he reiterated in his accompanying email, saying, “While I understand the importance of this meeting due to the administration moving forward with redesign efforts of developmental math, I think the message may be lost because of the mandate. I truly hope not. Despite any discontented feelings, it is important that math faculty are very much involved in any redesign effort.”

So what does the proposed redesign look like and who are its sponsors? Back to Perry:

The presentation is from the National Center for Academic Transformation. It is a non-profit think tank dedicated to higher ed. Just google them to get to their web site. Note well that their stated mission is a simple dual pronged statement (and I quote): “improve student learning outcomes and (bold mine) reduce the cost of higher education.” Let me repeat: reduce the cost of higher education. Draw your own conclusions.

I further have been told that part of the presentation will include how to use on-line and/or computer programs whereby students can achieve the “same or better results” with little or no teacher involvement. (If not, that is, part of the NCAT agenda.)

Theresa Carlton, who is the co-chair of HW’s Developmental Education Committee, and so is well versed in the relevant issues and research on this issue, provides a nice summary in another email sent yesterday:

I did some research on this “redesign” that Wright seems to be so obsessed with. An article from the Cleveland Daily Banner dated Dec 28, 2008 describes the redesign as a 1+2 format in which there is a one hour class meeting each week and a 2 hour lab session. Each developmental course consists of 10 modules, and students are required to complete one module per week, and are allowed to work ahead. Students take an online quiz after each module and an online final exam at the end of each course. The results of the redesign are that 37 students completed 2 or more developmental courses in one semester. Of those 37, 33 completed intermediate algebra, and 4 completed basic math and beginning algebra. Nine students completed intermediate algebra and a college level math course.

In the project write up, which can be found on the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) website: it states “Faculty productivity rose by 23%. The average student load per faculty member went from 106 to 130 and the FTE teaching load per faculty member went from 21.2 to 26.0. Going forward, faculty members should expect to teach 10-11 sections, work 8-10 hours in the lab, and handle 150+ students each semester…the increased faculty productivity has enabled the department to eliminate the use of adjunct faculty members at the same time that course offerings are actually increased. Overtime loads have been reduced as a result of the redesign project.”

So there’s your description, essentially, of the pitch and the pitchers. Theresa, goes on to provide some analysis, too:

All this really shows is what we already know. Students at the higher level of developmental math are more successful than those who start out at the basic math or beginning algebra levels. There was only one student who began in elementary algebra and was able to complete a college level math course. This does not prove that the redesign works. It proves that that student was misplaced to begin with.

I am not saying that the redesign idea is completely off base or that it can’t possibly work. It is not something that should be forced upon us. Just because one college claims success does not mean that it will work for CCC. Why does the district think that they can enforce mass changes on us without first testing out the idea and seeing if it actually works? What’s wrong with piloting 2 sections over a few semesters and comparing the results to the courses that are run in the traditional format?

A few points that need to be made about the study:

1. These courses were NOT moved into pre-credit where full-time faculty are not allowed to teach them, and students are not allowed to use financial aid.

2. The redesign did not work for the Basic Math course, as clearly stated in the study write up.

3. All of these courses met in a computer classroom for the one hour session and in a designated computer lab that was staffed with faculty and tutors, and available 54 hours each week.

4. Faculty are REQUIRED to teach these courses.

5. Students must be allowed to register for the next course as soon as they complete the current course. This means that if a student completes beginning algebra during week 4 of the semester, they must then register to take intermediate algebra, and be able to begin that new course immediately.

6. The true measure of success is not how many students completed a developmental course, or even the developmental program, but how many were able to successfully complete a college level math course. The study states that the percent of developmental students who successfully completed a college level math course increased from 71% to 76% due to the redesign. No where does it state that this was actually a statistically significant increase. A 5% increase does not seem good enough, especially when they never tell us exact numbers.

7. The biggest achievement that the study claims is being able to cut costs by eliminating faculty, and increasing faculty “productivity”. I’m sure the Union would have something to say about that, which may be why CCC wants to make these pre-credit courses.

In order for the redesign to be effective in the way that is claimed, CCC needs to be able to offer ALL of the resources that the study offered. Do we have sufficient computer classrooms and a designated computer lab that can accommodate our students? Is our registrar’s office prepared to offer students flexible enrollment throughout the semester? Do we have the money and the personnel to place tutors in the tutor center, the math department and in a computer lab for 54 hours a week? In my experience at CCC, the district likes to enforce a change with no follow-through and no assistance to ensure success.