Scores show students lack math, English skills

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By Griffith Fuller

By Griffith Fuller

Results from the Assessment Center’s Course Placement Test show that students’ scores are low. Incoming students enrolling into Riverside Community College usually take an assessment test that will determine class placement in the academics of English, reading, and math. Students took the Course Placement Test from January 1 to May 19.

The total of students from the Riverside high schools that took the English and Reading portion of the test is 758. The total of students from the Riverside high schools that took the Math portion is 757. One-hundred eleven students placed in English 1A at 14.64 percent. 360 students placed in English 60A at 47 percent, while 28 percent placed in English 50A.

The deficiency in Reading skills was evident in the results of 47.63 percent of students being placed in reading Skills 81, while 13.98 percent met their reading competency. Moreno Valley and Norco high schools had similar scores.

As the percentage for remedial courses rise, the percentage for advanced 1A classes decline. “It’s statistically possible, but highly improbable (that no students would place in an advanced class) yet there may be an entire month that no one is placed into Calculus,” District Placement Services Coordinator David Lee said.

In response to if slim to none students placed into advanced A1 classes English Department Chairman Tim Brown said “We would continue to offer (advanced courses) because it’s a BA requirement. My change would be the number of sections offered. Last year we found out that 60A courses filled up quickly. There’s an opportunity for us to change our course from a 1A course to a 60A course if there were just three students placed in a 1A class. We would notify the students of this.”

According to Chairman Brown the English placement percentage has improved, “It was around 53 percent last year. We allowed students to test into 60B, now students can test into English 60B without taking 60A. The factor is testing into 60B; we just changed that last year.” Reading Skills courses followed behind English classes with similar percentages.

“There have to be some forms of reading instruction after grade six. We know that assumption is erroneous. We need to continue throughout junior high and high school. It’s not on high school’s curriculum and (special) courses aren’t offered. English at high school level need to be more composition based.”

“Everyone is comfortable with the placement scores,” Brown said. He commented that the placement scores aren’t discussed at Board meetings. Even though the scores for English may be moderate, the scores for math have shown different. 33 percent of students placed in Math 50 and 51, only one student placed in Math 1A.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed many students place in low leveled math classes. The Math Department at RCC needs to get together with the high schools and talk about the curriculum and what we expect for our curriculum so we can come to an understanding,” Math Department Chairman Rogelio Ruiz said.

Math 52 at RCC received a grant offering the class in different ways involving lecture and lab that proved to be effective. RCC is looking at using other classes in a similar manner. Many remedial English classes already are using the lab and lecture method this spring semester.

“The placement scores have been bought to my attention before. You can go different community colleges and they place low as well; across the state. We keep data and statistics to see the success of the test. We are still going through validation. Placement takes research, and we work with the associate dean and Institutional Research.” Chairman Ruiz said.

Ruiz expressed much concern about students’ placements, even stating that the Board and administration have expressed their concerns as well with the Math department. One factor that seemed to be evident is the bias for improving literary skills but not math skills in education.

“I think that they (education system) emphasize on English more than math. Maybe it has something to do with our society; they don’t emphasize mathematics. I ask students how much math that they took in high school and they say the minimum requirement. When I see someone who comes to RCC and has problems with fractions, percentages, and word problems, I get concerned. That to me is disturbing; they had so many years, they should at least know that.” Ruiz said.

“I actually think that it isn’t biased. I think that there is correlation to students who do well in math and those who can critically think. Most English faculty believes that we expect students that are proficient in Math to do well in reading and writing. There was discussion using math scores for English placement,” said Ruiz.

With math scores so low, it would be difficult to include math score in judgment for placement in English classes.

Statistics show that there may be a flaw somewhere in the high school teaching.

Ruiz said that high school instructors should improve, while Brown seems to be a bit more comfortable.

Four freshman students from four different high schools said that their schools only offered after school tutoring programs for academic outreach and improvement.

Freshman Sarah Turner, a graduate from Rancho Verde High School said “It’s bad; they should do something to better prepare us for college.”

“The Assessment Test was challenging because it gave me problem I hadn’t seen before. Some of my friends who are smart had Advanced Placement classes in high school, but they had 60B; I don’t think the test is that accurate,” Freshman Luis Ramirez said. Ramirez is one of many students who graduated from a high school in the Riverside County.

“There aren’t many procedures to get people to learn math and get it in their heads. Prerequisite classes are good because they refresh your mind in what you’re taking. They would help with my vocabulary and writing skills. I think that that they need to teach the students to do better. (High school) teachers need to pay attention to how they teach.” Freshman Jon Martinez said.

On RCC’s campus there are programs such as the Writing and Reading Center offered to enhance helping students. Tutors are available there to help.

Brown expressed his satisfaction by saying, “I’m proud of the faculty and how they are to the needs of students.”

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