florida and valencia get a boost

Valencia Community College’s innovative remedial programs – and improved measurement of student progress – have been selected as a model for helping more young people succeed.Today, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and MDC, Inc. are giving over $1 million to the state of Florida and Valencia Community College to expand groundbreaking remedial education programs that promise to boost the college completion rates of low-income students and students of color.

Every year, roughly 375,000 Florida degree-seeking students attend a local community college, with nearly 40 percent of them having to take remedial classes to build basic academic skills. Many are unable to meet their goal of completing college. National studies have shown that nearly two-thirds of those who take remedial classes never graduate. However, successful programs at several colleges demonstrate that these numbers can be improved.

The grants announced today will support innovative remedial programs developed by Valencia Community College through Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count, a multi-year national initiative that is aiming to dramatically boost college graduation rates among low-income students and students of color. The remedial education models pioneered by these colleges represent some of the most promising work in the country for boosting college completion rates among struggling students.

Valencia’s goal is to align high school, remedial, and college-level standards, expand its remedial learning communities, and embed reading skills into its remedial math courses.

The grants given in Florida are part of a larger $16.5 million effort to improve remedial education at community colleges in five states. Together, the effort will reach an estimated 45,000 students nationwide. Today, 14 other colleges and four states received similar grants from the Gates Foundation to build upon the promising work developed under Achieving the Dream. Each community college will receive $743,000 over three years to expand its programs to more students who need the assistance. Lumina Foundation for Education has committed $1.5 million to this initiative for evaluation and communications.

“The pressing need to shore up weak academic skills in first-year students is one of the most significant, but least discussed, problems confronting higher education,” said Carol Lincoln, director of the Developmental Education Initiative and national director of Achieving the Dream for MDC. “Colleges that can figure out how to quickly and efficiently boost basic skills, particularly among students of color and low-income students, will play a leading role in helping them earn the college degrees necessary for economic success in America today.”

Florida, Connecticut, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia will also each receive $300,000 over three years to develop new policies that can help accelerate remedial education programs around the state. These states have also pledged to measure their progress against those in other states.

“Too many institutions have not developed powerful and effective ways to accelerate academic progress for students who start college underprepared,” said Hilary Pennington, director of Education, Postsecondary Success and Special Initiatives at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “By working together, states, community colleges, and local school districts can design programs to accelerate high-quality learning and shorten the amount of time it takes to earn a degree.”

The grants announced today advance the Gates Foundation’s efforts to ensure every young person in the United States will graduate from high school ready for college and will obtain a postsecondary degree that prepares them to succeed in the global economy.

In today’s America, a college degree or postsecondary certificate is required to obtain a family-wage job and a shot at the middle class. Until recently, education reform efforts and national policies have focused on increasing access to college, but have done little to help students earn credentials that employers value. The Obama administration has called on the states and education leaders to work together to help the United States lead the world in percentage of college graduates by 2020.

The following is a summary of the grants in Florida which total $1,043,000:

State of Florida – $300,000 over three years to collaborate with K-12 to reduce the need for remedial education. Media Contact: Tom Butler, Press Secretary, Florida Department of Education, Tel: 850-245-9653; E-mail: Tom.Butler@fldoe.org

Valencia Community College – $743,000 over three years to create a centralized remedial program to be used across four campuses. Align high school, remedial, and college-level standards; expand a student success course, supplemental instruction, and remedial learning communities; and embed reading skills into its remedial math courses. Media Contact: Susan Kelley, Vice President for Institutional Advancement; Tel: 407-582-2967; E-mail: skelley@valenciacc.edu

Click here to read the Orlando Sentinel Online Exclusive story:
A Big Goal: Higher Education in Florida

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