Capacity Unleashed: The Faces of Community College Math Pathways

October 2016

Chronically low completion rates among students in “basic skills” or remedial courses have led the state of California to allocate $90 million in grants to community colleges to transform remediation in English and math. A new publication—Capacity Unleashed: The Faces of Community College Math Pathways—illustrates the potential impact of this work on students’ lives.

Capacity Unleashed tells the stories of 13 students who participated in alternative math remediation at City College of San Francisco, Berkeley City College, College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, and Cuyamaca College in the San Diego area. Like most students placed into remedial math, the individuals featured in Capacity Unleashed likely would have left college without a degree if they hadn’t had access to alternative remediation:

  • DonnaRose Gibson was an adult student taking 1-2 classes per semester while working 12-16 hour days. In traditional remediation, she would have had to take two years of math that didn’t count toward a bachelor’s degree.
  • Mark Johnson was a former drug addict and prisoner who was started three courses below a transferable math course. He is now earning straight A’s at UC Berkeley and considering doctoral studies.
  • Chris Rogers was a student whose “severe math anxiety” led him to avoid taking math until his last semester in community college. He’s now earning a 3.97 GPA in a graduate program in public health and epidemiology and studying tuberculosis for the Los Angeles County Department of Health.

The colleges featured in Capacity Unleashed are among the 35 institutions in the state offering accelerated statistics pathways with a faculty-led initiative called the California Acceleration Project (CAP). Across the first 8 colleges offering redesigned statistics pathways with CAP, students’ odds of completing a transferable math course were 4.5 times higher than in traditional remediation, and the achievement gap between African American and Asian students – the largest gap in traditional remediation – was eliminated.

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