SBCC Learning Program Wins Statewide Award

SBCC will accept the award at the Community College League of California’s Annual Convention on November 17 in Los Angeles.

Express to Success is aimed at first-time college students, primarily underrepresented or low-income, who test one to two levels below college level in math and English. The goal is for the students to complete their required math and English courses more quickly and with better skills so that they can earn their associate degree or transfer within three years.

“Students who come to college academically unprepared are much more likely to drop out,” said Professor Kathy Molloy, Express to Success Director. Even when students successfully complete a required developmental math or English class, 30 percent or more of these successful students fail to enroll in the subsequent required course. This number is even higher for underrepresented students. “This phenomenon, known as the ‘leaky pipeline,’ was probably the single most influential factor in leading SBCC to plan and implement the Express to Success Program,” said Professor Molloy

Program Background

After an extensive review of best student success practices, SBCC faculty developed the program which uses accelerated curriculum, learning communities (groups of students) and specialized support services which are incorporated into every aspect of the program. Students must commit to full-time study of at least 12 units per semester.

The program is funded through a five-year $3 million federal Title V grant awarded to the college by the U.S. Department of Education in 2010.

ESP differs from the standard learning community model where different teachers instruct the same group of students. Instead, students have one teacher for their classes in all of the math and English models. ESP students take two or more classes together, working collaboratively in class and forming study groups outside of class to support their learning. The models include immersion courses in math, where one teacher teaches two sequential courses in one semester. In English, students can take linked reading and writing courses or newly developed accelerated courses that allow them to complete two levels of required English courses in one semester.

Another important program component is a wide range of student support services including dedicated ESP counselors, who meet with each student to explain the program, assess the student’s placement in an ESP learning community and develop a student educational plan. They work closely with faculty to monitor student progress and give presentations and workshops both inside and outside the classroom over the course of the semester. Students are also supported by Gateway tutors, students who have successfully completed the course during a previous semester, usually from the same instructor, and who have completed an intensive training program that stresses identifying student needs and providing supplemental instruction in targeted areas.

Express to Success launched in fall 2011 with 257 students enrolled in 10 learning communities. In spring 2012, 208 students enrolled in eight learning communities, and currently 474 students have enrolled in 17 learning communities in fall 2012. The plan calls for increasing the number of students who participate in the Express to Success Program in each of the next three years.

Program Results

The first-year course completion rates and college persistence rates far exceeded the college average. ESP students completed two levels of accelerated math or English at a 30% to 40% higher rate than students taking traditional courses over a two-semester period. In fall 2011, 95% of all ESP students persisted until the end of the semester, and 90% of all ESP students continued their studies the following semester, many of them in another ESP learning community. Most importantly, data indicated that these ESP students in accelerated courses were ready for college-level math or English or had completed college-level math or English in one semester.

The Express to Success Program is designed to be scalable and serve as a model for other community colleges to implement.

Student Testimonials

“ESP helped me not only pass English, but it gave me stronger skills as a student to the point where I was even asked to become a tutor,” said SBCC student Jose Valle. “I started off feeling self conscious and not very proud of my writing or reading ability. But thanks to my teacher, I gained confidence in myself to not only become a better writer but a leader as well. I left with so much more than I expected.”

“After an eight-year hiatus, I came back to college at the age of 26 as a single mother of four children,” said SBCC student Cindy Gonzalez. “I assessed low in my Math and English, which did not determine who I was, only how much catching up I needed to do. Now, three years later I have completed up to Math 120 and English 282 Honors,” She added, “My leadership and communication skills were enhanced by helping my classmates in the study groups and they have also become good friends. Overall, my experience was a success and I highly recommend any incoming student to consider it.”

“Express to Success is transformational,” said SBCC President Lori Gaskin. “We have long pondered what might be the synergistic pieces to an educational experience that gives all students the opportunity to see their goals become reality.” She added, “Through the integration of effective teaching practices, structured pathways, curricular compression, group-based learning experiences, peer-based connections, and interventions and support services that keep students focused, grounded, and linked together, ESP is fast becoming a success story.”


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