Higher Education in Arkansas has received a three-year $1.4 million grant from Ascendium Education Group through a partnership between the Arkansas Division of Higher Education, Arkansas Community Colleges, and the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The grant will support continued implementation of math pathways which is a strategy to redesign college math classes to better align with real world applications for future career goals and jobs. The grant will build on prior Dana Center Mathematics Pathways (DCMP) work in Arkansas so that math pathways and co-requisite support for math pathways can become “normative practice” at all state public institutions of higher education.
In 2016, higher education leaders created the Arkansas Math Pathways Task Force, a unique effort involving representatives from all public two-year and four-year colleges to cultivate mathematics pathways at their institutions. Math pathways fundamentally recognizes while college algebra/calculus, is historically the default math course for all students, it is not the most relevant math for many students, nor does it provide the skills pertinent to the student’s chosen program of study. The math course revision work in Arkansas over the past four years has resulted in the development of two pathways separate from the traditional algebra/calculus pathway, allowing students to take statistics or quantitative reasoning. Because of the revision, many students in the humanities fields, for example, are taking quantitative reasoning math courses that teach them how to gather, interpret, and use data in humanities career applications.
Colleges and universities are also implementing co-requisite support for each math pathway. Underprepared students can be directly enrolled in a college level math course with co-requisite instructional support provided to meet these remedial needs. Co-requisite support is a proven practice for re-designing traditional sequences of math courses. The data points towards this model helping more students complete needed remediation and successful credit course completion.
“The work of Arkansas math pathways has been a resounding success for our state, said Arkansas Division of Higher Education Director Dr. Maria Markham. “We are so thankful for the opportunity to reach more students and better refine the work of co-requisite remediation and contextualized learning.”
To support Arkansas colleges and universities in this next phase of math pathways work, funds will be used for the following activities to support institutions as they deepen their math pathways and co-requisite support efforts:
- In-depth, data-driven, technical assistance to leadership and faculty at institutions using regional coordinators.
- Workshops, and interactive virtual meetings for institutional teams (faculty, administrators, and advisors) on scaling, and enhancing their math pathways, math co-requisites efforts.
- Identifying through evidence-based practices plans for improving the alignment of the pathways with programs of study and/or increasing number of students in math pathways appropriate to their programs of study/career choices.
- Stipends in the amount of 10k to each institution to support math pathway efforts.
These activities represent a unique synergy between enhancing educational outcomes for all Arkansans, with special attention paid to closing gaps between underserved populations including racial disparities. For some students, it lessens the burden of the transition between high school and postsecondary education. These efforts also closely align with the state’s outcomes-based funding model for colleges and universities by ensuring students successfully complete the gateway math course during their first year of study. Evidence is building that math pathways can help give students the critical thinking foundation they need to move ahead in college.
“The community colleges are excited about this opportunity, said Andrea Henderson, Executive Director of Arkansas Community Colleges. “This revision will help us in the important work of ensuring that students learn the skills needed to be prepared for their careers.”
The math pathways work will be folded into the existing initiative known as Strong Start to Finish Arkansas. This statewide effort also involves all public colleges and universities seeks to improve gateway course completion by, among other strategies, scaling co requisite support in both math and English to the point, most stand-alone remedial courses are ultimately phased out. Strong Start to Finish Arkansas aims to improve gateway course completion through three strategy pillars: 1) multiple measures for student placement, 2) placement into the appropriate math pathway, and 3) co-requisite support for at least 75% of all underprepared students. Arkansas is one of five state’s participating in the national initiative known as Strong Start to Finish.
Strong Start to Finish Arkansas is managed by a leadership team consisting of top leadership from the Arkansas Division of Higher Education (ADHE), including Dr. Jessie Walker, Senior Associate Director for Academic Affairs/Research & Analytics and top leadership from Arkansas Community Colleges (ACC), including Mike Leach, Director of the Center for Student Success.