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Pilot offers alternative to remedial math class

Students who graduate from area high schools aren’t always ready for College Algebra, but a new program aims to change that.
The Kansas Board of Regents and the Kansas State Department of Education are recruiting high schools in partnership with their local community or technical college to pilot Transition to College Algebra, a one-year class. Great Bend and Ellinwood have applied to pilot the program and Barton Community College will help, BCC Vice President Dr. Robin Garrett told college trustees Tuesday.
Transition to College Algebra  is a high school class taught by high school teachers, but the program requires the involvement of a sponsor college, Garrett said. Barton math instructor Brian Howe has volunteered to facilitate the program.
The goal is for students who complete this class to be ready to take college algebra. Many students, especially those who score lower than 22 on the Math section of the ACT, need to take remedial math their first year of college. According to the application submitted by Great Bend USD 428, 61 percent of Great Bend High School graduates scored less than 22 in 2014, the latest year for which data was available. Fifteen percent of  GBHS graduates who went to college were placed in remedial math in 2012, although in 2013 the number was 8 percent.
The Great Bend application also shows Wendy Popp will be the GBHS instructor for this program. Popp, Superintendent Brad Reed and GBHS Principal Tim Friess signed the application.
(Only the USD 428 application was available Tuesday.)
Great Bend’s application explains the need for this course, but Garrett said it is consistent with schools nationwide. Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman agreed.
“I believe there is recognition at the state level that there is a weakness,” Heilman said.
The application states: “Over the past few years, the mathematics department at the high school has seen an increasing need for a course designed to serve upper classmen (seniors) who are not particularly ready to enter into College Algebra.” Students don’t usually have a rigorous math class their last semester of high school.
“Our hope is to provide students with a course that can build the bridge between Algebra 2 and College Algebra to improve, not only the number of students taking College Algebra, but also overall math ACT scores of our students,” the application states.
Garrett said there are several pieces of this pilot program that are uncertain.
“There are a lot of unknown details,” Heilman said. Although he sees the program as a positive development in preparing high school students for college, he cautioned that if the program grows into an expense to the college, Barton may not be able to afford it.