EWU Receives College Spark Washington Grant

May 24, 2018 By David Meany
Showalter Hall at sunset

College Spark Washington has announced $1.5 million in Community Grants to help low-income students become college-ready and earn their degree, and Eastern Washington University will receive $149,573 of the funding.

Eastern’s Department of Mathematics will utilize the funding to develop, pilot and scale corequisite remediation courses. In corequisite remediation, students are placed directly into college-level courses with required extra support sessions, enabling them to take a first college-level course earlier in their college careers and be successful in that course and subsequent courses.

“EWU’s math department is excited to spearhead this effort to support students in completing college-level math earlier,” said EWU Professor Jackie Coomes, PhD, principal investigator for the project. “We expect the characteristics of the courses to greatly improve many students’ progress to college completion.”

The annual, competitive statewide College Spark Community Grants Program focuses on building the effectiveness of grantees working with low-income students in middle school, high school and college by funding new and promising practices that help students become college-ready and transition successfully to college.

“Even though most living-wage jobs require a college degree or credential, far too many Washington students either don’t have the opportunity to go to college or face daunting challenges when they get there,” said Christine McCabe, executive director at College Spark. “These programs were selected because they have the potential to improve persistence and completion rates for low-income students, leveling the playing field for social mobility.”

This year’s 12 grantees will measure results using at least one of the following indicators of future college success:

  • Middle School Math: Improve math achievement in middle school, one measure of which is the rate of students earning a three or higher on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
  • Early Warning Indicators: Decreasing the number of middle school students who trigger two of three early warning indicators: five or more absences per semester, course failure, or suspension or expulsion.
  • Remedial Education: Decreasing the rate of students who are required to enroll in remedial, noncredit-bearing courses in college.
  • College Math and English: Increasing the rate of students who earn their first college-level credits in English or math.

Research on efforts to expand the demographics of students who experience middle school math success consistently points to the presence of high-quality professional development for teachers as a critical difference between efforts that lead to improvements and those that do not.  Bethel and Kennewick School Districts and the Olympic Educational Service District will provide professional development to help teachers transition from instructional practices that primarily build procedural fluency to those that additionally foster improved conceptual understanding of mathematics.

Several projects concentrate on the successful transition to college.  For example, Community Colleges of Spokane will work with regional districts to improve and scale new placement instruments with the intention of placing a majority of recent high school graduates based on high school performance rather than by a placement test.  Tacoma Community College is partnering with districts, the Washington Student Achievement Council, and Ready to Rise to analyze and improve the college transition process for College Bound Scholars.

The projects focused on increasing first college-level credits in English and math are testing strategies for building successful corequisite models.  These models place students into a college-level course with mandatory extra support which may include any of the following strategies: having two instructors in the classroom; providing tutors to run support sessions; contextualizing math content to other courses; or including a growth mindset or a college success curriculum.

Since 2005, College Spark’s Community Grants Program has awarded more than 100 Community Grants totaling nearly $18 million.