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I have been following the discussion about the apparent ineffectiveness of
developmental reading classes on students in remedial programs. I teach
developmental math and my wife teaches developmental reading and writing.
I guess you could say we have the 3 R's covered literally.
    I see major improvement in the math area for students who qualify for
elementary algebra and much less success for those who start at the arithmetic
level. This is true of the english courses also. Those who assess at the higher
level are more likely yo complete the course and improve. Those at the lower
levels do not. We have even instituted a pre-reading course. People in that
program rarely continue.
     The observation that I would like to share with the list is that it is
not possible to undo or change 20-40 years of neglect of reading in a semester.
Fiften weeks of meeting 3 times a week or less is just not enough time to get
people to learn grammar, vocabulary, sentence and paragraph structure. Many of
the people we are dealing with never read a newspaper or book or magazine, not
even the Inquirer, so how can they be expected to form opinions and express
themselves?
     Paired courses goa long way to helping this situation and providing
articles that should be of interest does spur many students on to a higher
interest level. Looking at students in the humanities or engineering will also
show a higher level of improvement I feel because they are already at a higher
level of ability to be in those classes. I think what we are looking at with
the lower improvement rates are those students at the lower end of the scale
on the assessment we do. Probably the best thing for those students is more
time on task and a longer exposure to reading instruction. If we spent a year
on developmental reading I think we would see improvement. Of course we are all
aware that students do not want to be in these classes in the first place let
alone spend a whole year. What they don't understand is that is exactly what
happens when the must repeat a course, only they go over the same material
instead of using new material over a longer time.
    My question then is  SHOULD WE NOT BE LOOKING AT ALTERNATE TIME FRAMES
FOR DELIVERY OF DEVELOPMENTAL READING COURSES? WHY SHOULD WE BE LOCKED INTO
A SEMESTER TIME FRAME?

   Just as a post script in math I see a similar phenomenon. The students at thelower end of the assessment often need to repeat arithmetic or elementary
algebra because the classes move too fast for them. The second time around is
much better. In intermediate algebra I see much less of that because the
students are at a high enough level to succedd if they put the time in. Again
we can't make up for a lifetime of poor math in 15 weeks.

Ted Panitz    [log in to unmask]
Cape Cod Community College