2/5/2010 12:12 PM
In this week's issue, we were pleased to publish an interview with Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes. We have featured this article on our website, making it available to the general public. Click here to read the main portion of the interview, publishing in this week's Lone Star Report.
Due to space reasons, we were unable to publish the entire interview in this week's issue. We publish the remaining portion of our discussion with Dr. Paredes below:
LSR: State elected leaders are very concerned about developmental education. Some of this is a K-12 problem, but there appears to be some research that students who need developmental [or remedial] education are very unlikely to get a degree. What does the state need to do on this issue?
Paredes: We need to reinvent developmental education completely from the ground up. There is very little evidence that, as presently executed, it works very well.
We have pockets of success here and there. We have a math program at one community college, a writing problem at another community college. But I don't know of any institution, whether in Texas or anywhere else in the country, that is doing a good job of providing developmental education across the board. And I've talked to national researchers on this issue, and they've essentially verified my impression that we do an inadequate job of developmental education across the board.
There are a lot of things that we need to do differently. The most apparent thing that we should do is, we need to train people who teach developmental education courses. We need to create a cadre of professionals who know how to help students catch up once they fall behind, at whatever level -- whether it's the third grade, the tenth grade, or upon entering a college or university.
We have to stop doing what is a common practice in both public and higher education. We put the least experienced or the least competent teachers in front of the students who need the most help. That's a practice we have to change dramatically. We have to put strong faculty into developmental education courses.
We have to do a better job of diagnosing what kind of help students need. There are some common practices that don't make any pedagogical sense, and make no sense based on cognitive research. For example, we teach reading and writing typically as two separate courses, when all the research that I'm aware of and my own experience as an English professor, lead me to believe that those two courses ought to be one. Reading and writing ought to be taught in the same course, and you'd cut developmental education programs by one-third.
When you talk to people about why reading and writing are taught as separate courses, you typically get two responses. Number one, that's the way it's always been done. And number two, they're tested separately. That's another change we clearly have to make.
We need to work more closely with the K-12 sector. There's an interesting initiative going on at El Paso Community College where they're giving students a diagnostic test in the 11th grade in certain feeder high schools and using the 12th grade to provide students some developmental education while they're still in high school and when it’s less expensive and closer to the problem.
There's a movement around the country that's based on course redesign, which changes the way we offer courses and makes them blended courses that combine conventional face-to-face instruction with online instruction. And those kind of courses have achieved some very significant results. Those are some of the things that we need to do.
Developmental education just isn't working. If you have to take a developmental math course in Texas, your likelihood of ever going on and passing a credit-bearing math course are very low. We have to change that. Same thing with reading and writing. Students, more often than not, never emerge from those courses to take credit-bearing courses on their college or university campuses.
LSR: Anything else you'd like to add?
Paredes: As you know, we're entering a very tough budgetary environment. And the most cost-efficient thing that we can do in education in Texas, not just at the higher education level but throughout the educational pipeline is for higher education and public education to stay together.
If our universities were more focused on providing very high-achieving undergraduates to go into the teaching profession for K-12, that would alleviate a lot of the challenges we have in the educational pipeline. If higher education and public education worked much more closely together on common definitions of college and career readiness, that would significantly reduce costs in higher education.
If we aligned the college and university curricula with college and career readiness standards in high school, that would significantly reduce costs and time-to-degree. If we make sure that our dual credit courses and AP courses are rigorous and, once again, very closely aligned with university and college work, we would graduate many more students from our high schools who are ready to do college work and have, in fact, accumulated college credit. And it will take them a shorter period of time to get their degrees, and consequently, that will reduce cost to both the state and students and their families.
So one point I would like to underscore is, we need to keep making progress on higher levels of cooperation between public and higher education.