NOVA’s math redesign leads to improved student success
April 26, 2013
An increasing number of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) students are completing their developmental math courses -- an indication that the College’s decision to redesign its remedial education program is working.
Sixty-two percent of students completed their developmental math courses in spring 2012. Only 44.6 percent did so during the previous spring. Retention rates have significantly improved. The number of developmental math students who returned to NOVA to continue their studies grew to 86 percent from 79 percent after the redesign.
The results were shared publicly for the first time during the Achieving the Dream Conference in Anaheim, Calif. in February. Achieving the Dream is a national initiative developed to increase student success rates at community colleges. The College joined the initiative in 2007 and became a Leader College in 2010.
“It’s clear that the changes we’ve made are making a difference,” said NOVA President Dr. Robert G. Templin, Jr. “Ensuring students overcome the hurdle of developmental education is imperative to their academic success. Today’s students need to earn a college degree in order to succeed in the ever-evolving workplace.”
The College also retooled its English developmental program, which was implemented this spring. NOVA embarked on the math redesign to address the lack of success among its developmental math students. The College’s statistics showed:
- The student success rate in introductory algebra was 38 percent in 2007
- Other developmental math courses had similar success rates
- Within three years of entering introductory algebra, only 28 percent of students enroll in college level courses
- Of those, only 20 percent pass a college-level course
“The number of students not advancing to college-level math was not acceptable,” said George E. Gabriel, vice president of institutional research, planning and assessment at NOVA. “Significant changes were made to the delivery of developmental math to ensure student success.”
To that end, NOVA implemented the revamped program at all its campuses in fall 2011, with the exception of the Medical Education Campus.
As part of the redesign, NOVA replaced semester-long courses with modules in which students work only on those concepts they already haven’t mastered. Students concentrate on areas where they need help such as understanding fractions or solving polynomial equations.
The change allows students to move through coursework faster. Half of all incoming students in the Virginia Community College System need developmental education, which can become an obstacle toward completing a degree or certificate.
“Students are often disappointed when they start college and find out they have to take developmental courses. Some even dropout out of frustration,” said Teresa Ryerse Overton, an assistant professor of math at NOVA’s Woodbridge Campus. “But NOVA’s math redesign should help students because it shortens the time they spend in remedial-education courses.”
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Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.