[Assessment 1174] Re: (no subject)

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Hinkle, Robert rhinkle at raritanval.edu
Fri Feb 8 09:42:26 EST 2008


I believe we do have a hard time getting enough students fed into our program and with the appropriate background to succeed if they do come to us. It is a real problem. There are some workplace ESL programs which are run through our Corporate and Continuing Education Office, but those students rarely, if ever, come to us. And they serve the employees of specific companies as opposed to the community at large.

Our ESL program is within an academic department in the college (Communication and Languages) and so is run like every other. ESL students pay the same tuition and fees as all other students at the college. We do not receive special government funding beyond what the state and counties provide for the college as a whole as a part of our yearly budget.

Finances are probably a big reason why we are getting fewer students at the low levels. Community programs are free or low cost; although in the scheme of higher education, the community college is less expensive, it may still be out of reach of many students.

In terms of having a more comprehensive program, we are limited by a small staff, and the unlikelihood of being able to expand given college budgeting restraints. In addition, our three full-time faculty members (including myself) not only teach 15 credit hours per semester but also do the administrative work required. We do advising, scheduling, and the many other tasks associate with keeping the program afloat. The only "official" administrative support for the program is through the 3 hours of overload I receive to serve as Adjunct Coordinator.

The belief that they can attend college does not seem to be a problem with our population although I can certainly see that it could be. A growing problem for us (and many around the country) is the disconnect between high schools and colleges in terms of student preparation. Either the high schools do not think the students are college-bound and so don't bother to give them a college-prep course of study, or there is simply a growing gap between the expectations of each. Additionally, students seem to think that a high school diploma equates to college readiness.

We do our best to advise students, but we don't always have enough time - and as professors primarily - may not know ourselves what all of the options for students are.

Kevin

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From: assessment-bounces at nifl.gov on behalf of Forrest Chisman
Sent: Thu 2/7/2008 10:38 PM
To: 'The Assessment Discussion List'
Subject: [Assessment 1172] Re: (no subject)



Dear Kevin,



Many thanks for providing all of us with a profile of your program. Seeing the variety of college program goals and designs is extremely valuable in stimulating ideas about how to do a better job in delivering ESL.



Personally, I think that it is perfectly valid for colleges to elect to offer solely pre-academic ESL at the non-credit level. But it does prompt the concern about whether other programs in the college's service area are providing non-academic ESL to large enough numbers of students and at a high enough quality to "feed" the college program - as well as how well their efforts articulate with yours. I wonder whether this troubles you, and if so whether/how you have addressed the issue. Frankly, I think one reason why many colleges offer comprehensive ESL programs is that they would prefer to "make" pre-academic students themselves, rather than rely on others to do it. Another reason, of course, if that they may not be eligible for federal/state grant money unless they offer comprehensive programs. Does your college receive these funds to support its pre-academic program? If not, how is it supported financially?



I heartily agree that helping students set realistic goals and understand their options is essential. I believe, however, that encouraging students to expand their goals as they succeed is also essential. For example, many immigrants come from countries where going to college is the privilege of very few, and thus may consider that an unrealistic goal unless they are encouraged to take the steps necessary (often one step at a time). The problem seems to be that it is hard for most programs to find the resources to provide very much guidance of any of these kinds to most students. I wonder if anyone has any solutions to THAT issue.



In any event, many thanks for fleshing out an interesting model.



Forrest



From: assessment-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:assessment-bounces at nifl.gov] On Behalf Of Hinkle, Robert
Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2008 9:19 PM
To: assessment at nifl.gov
Subject: [Assessment 1148] (no subject)



Hi All,



I have been reading most of the discussion comments and wanted to address a few issues. First, however, I'll give a summary of our program.



I teach ESL at Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey. Our program serves approximately 350 students from diverse language backgrounds. Our program offers two pre-academic levels of all skills ESL instruction (a six hour per week non-credit class). In addition, we have 5 levels of academic ESL preparation divided into three courses - Reading/Writing, Grammar, and Speaking/Listening). Our highest level Reading/Writing course gives successful students 6 elective credits that count towards RVCC graduation, but those credits do not transfer. Our semesters are 15 weeks. If a student misses 20% of any class, the instructor may withdraw that student (they are not, however, obliged to withdraw these students). At the moment, the late enrollment policy is that students may register for a course prior to the second week of class but not thereafter. Research, of course, indicates that students who begin a class late have a much higher rate of failure than those who begin on time.



In our program, we have three full-time faculty and approximately 16-18 adjuncts.



We have focused our program on academic prep ESL because we are a small program with limited resources, and we have a very difficult time finding qualified adjuncts. Also, a significant majority of our students have signalled their intention to obtain a college degree. Moreover, there are community programs that offer basic English skills although there is often a long waiting list to obtain the services. In other issues, we use the Accuplacer ESL test for placement and have in-house standardized tests at the end of each level of grammar and reading/writing



Within our classes, highly educated non-native speakers usually progress much more quickly. One of the most challenging groups is students who graduated from local high schools but still have inadequate English skills - and not infrequently, weak academic skills in general. One of the strategies that I would personally wish for is real communication between K-12 and community colleges so that students get the language skills they need before they enter college. I understand that there is great pressure to move students out of ESL in many school districts, but ultimately, it does a huge disservice both financially and in terms of motivation to students whose skills remain more BICS than CALP.



I agree with those who suggest that first language literacy issues should be addressed before students enter ESL. However, it becomes complicated to find funding and support for such efforts. In my experience, students with low level literacy skills become frustrated and are not ultimately successful - probably by any definition. I am uncomfortable with the idea that they are spending hard-earned money when the chances for success in ESL are minimal. We advise students that the program is academically-oriented; often they have little understanding of what that means.



I do not agree with the suggestion that the bar be lowered so that students with low-intermediate skills be allowed in credit classes (at least at my college). Historically, other faculty have little experience handling language issues and are very unhappy when students cannot read, write and converse at an appropriate level of English. They end up feeling helpless. Students may pass classes; however, I suspect that instructors do not want to deal with the challenges and so turn a blind eye and let them through. Recently, there has been a problem in the nursing department with non-native English speaking students not passing board exams because they enter the college from other programs and circumvent ESL with us. They have trouble reading and answering questions on the exam. This is a significant problem because nursing programs are judged in terms of the success of their students on these standardized exams.



I think the measure of success should be based on a realistic assessment of student goals combined with a real-life discussion of the possibilities and limitations. Ideally, students would have incremental goals so that success could build. If the goals for students with low literacy levels are not carefully discussed and planned, then they will likely encounter more failure than success because their expectaions will be unrealistic. The more we have the opportunity to talk to students, the more likely it is that they can develop short-term goals that are within their reach. Unfortunately, we have no control over the myriad of complications that accrue in their every day lives.



Apologies for the length.



Kevin Hinkle, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of ESL/Adjunct Coordinator

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