This article was printed in the Glenwood Post Independent. By Will Grandbois.
In the quest to eliminate the need for remedial courses between high school and higher education, Colorado Mountain College is partnering with high schools around its service area.
It’s made possible by the Concurrent Enrollment Programs Act, which was authorized by the Legislature in 2009.
“It changed dramatically the way colleges and high schools could work together,” CMC chief operating officer Matt Gianneschi explained.
Specifically, it allows them to offer in-house, dual credit classes to high school students, getting required noncredit college courses out of the way before they even graduate.
Rifle, Basalt and Battle Mountain have all signed on, and Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale has launched a particularly ambitious program.
“We simply make the option available. It’s really up to the school whether and how they want to implement it,” Gianneschi said. “What’s going at Roaring Fork is tremendously exciting. They’ve embraced the idea, taken the ball and run.”
Roaring Fork’s approach is universal. Seniors not already taking an Advanced Placement or college course are automatically getting remediation as part of their required math and English. When all’s said and done, a passing grade will count as remedial English and composition or liberal arts math at any college in the state, with no extra cost to the students or the school.
CMC is taking on the training, credentials and oversight tuition free, an approach made possible by its array of local outlets.
“That can’t just happen remotely,” Gianneschi said. “CMC happens to be a college that is uniquely suited to do this.”
In Carbondale, CMC counselor Craig Farnum has been working closely with Roaring Fork.
“We wanted to address the nationwide issue of most students not graduating at college levels,” he said. “Instead of students demonstrating college readiness in one class in one day, they get to do it over the course of a year.”
Heading into the pilot year, 30 out of 74 Roaring Fork seniors have already demonstrated college readiness in reading and writing — a prerequisite for almost any for-credit class. By graduation, the school expects to bring that up to 60, with similar improvements in math.
“It’s really a terrific opportunity for these kids,” said Melissa Reynolds, who teaches the math course.
For the most part, Reynolds says, it’s not all that different from the course she taught last year.
“It starts with very basic skills — fractions, decimals, percents…” she said. “It’s really what people forget. It think it gives them a more solid foundation.”
On the English side, Denise Wright has had to tweak things a bit.
“It’s really doing things in a different way and hitting on the exact skills they want,” she said. “There’s still room for a few things I really don’t want to lose.”
The course comes with more emphasis on writing and comprehension of numerous short readings instead of a handful of novels. Wright wants to make sure the students leave with the ability compose a five-paragraph essay in 40 minutes and craft a decent research paper. It’s a somewhat daunting level of rigor, but the students seem up to the challenge.
“I think it will be worth it,” said senior Matthew Wampler. “It gives us a college mindset instead of just being stuck in high school.”
That’s exactly what Principal Drew Adams is hoping for.
“I believe that all the skills that they’re learning in that class will allow them to have access to a more advanced career or college after graduating,” he said. “Our most important mission is to make sure that when kids leave Roaring Fork, they’ve met all the qualifications to take the next step. We wanted to make sure that we remove any barriers to that.”
It’s a triple win for the student, the high school and the college, Gianneschi said.
“I think you’re probably going to see a lot more,” he said.