SREB Field Tests Courses to Help Close the Readiness Gap
Transitional courses prepare students to succeed in college and careers

News

Atlanta, GA — In collaboration with partner states, the Southern Regional Education Board is field testing two courses to prepare more students for college and careers when they graduate from high school. The SREB Readiness Courses are designed to prepare students to start college in credit-bearing courses instead of remedial classes. 
SREB Literacy Ready and SREB Math Ready are now available for states or districts to field test. They are available at SREB.org/Ready and on iTunes U, free of charge.

SREB and partner states have worked since 2011 to develop, pilot and revise the courses as a way to tackle the readiness gap that keeps many students from completing degrees and advanced certificates after high school.

Ready in high school, to avoid remedial courses in college

A student’s level of readiness is a strong predictor of whether he or she will complete a postsecondary degree or certificate. This is especially important at community and technical colleges with open-access admissions — institutions that serve a large percentage of public undergraduate students. Seventy to 80 percent of students admitted to two-year public colleges are assigned to at least one remedial course, and the vast majority of them never complete a degree.

“When states begin testing high school students using higher college- and career-readiness standards,we will see that we have underestimated the size of the readiness gap,” said SREB President Dave Spence. “One thing educators can do right now is test these courses and gauge their impact on helping students enter college ready, without needing remediation.” 

The curricula are targeted specifically for students who are determined through 11th-grade testing to be underprepared for credit-bearing college work. As part of its action agenda for statewide college- and career-readiness, SREB recommends that students be assessed on readiness standards no later than 11th grade and that students who have not reached college- and career-readiness levels be required to take the courses.

Continuous improvement

SREB will continue to update the courses based on feedback from formal field-testing in 50 to 100 schools during the 2014-15 school year, as it did after pilots in 20 schools in seven states during 2013-14. 

Working with state trainers, SREB has trained more than 800 teachers in 15 states during 2013 and 2014. SREB plans to train several thousand teachers over the next five years.

“These courses hold promise for schools to increase the number of students who meet goals for college attainment and work force readiness,” said SREB Senior Vice President Gene Bottoms.”We hope all schools will be watching the results.”
 
To develop the Readiness Courses, SREB brought together teams of K-12 and postsecondary educators in participating states to develop and field test the courses, design assessments and teacher guidelines, and recommend professional development for teachers. 

Five SREB states – Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee – have worked with SREB over the past three years as lead writing states for the curricula.

Nine additional states were lead review states for the curricula: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Ohio and Oklahoma.

Seven states piloted the initial version of the courses: Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina and New York.

Three SREB states — Mississippi, North Carolina and West Virginia — are field testing the courses widely this school year, as are two states outside the region, Indiana and Washington.

About the courses

SREB Literacy Ready and SREB Math Ready teach students specific skills they need to think independently and learn at higher levels after high school — in postsecondary study, job training and beyond. They are grounded in foundational college- and career-readiness standards in literacy and math. 
 
Teachers use strategies that engage students to reach deeper learning through productive struggle, group projects and hands-on activities. Teachers who have piloted modules say the courses help them differentiate instruction for individual students. Both are built with flexible modules so that schools can integrate parts into existing classes at several grade levels in addition to offering the entire course as a class.

PDF versions at SREB.org/Ready are for in-class delivery. Online versions launched in summer 2014 give states and schools even more flexibility in how to use the model curricula. 

Literacy Ready: Ready for reading in all disciplines

SREB Literacy Ready teaches high school students strategies for reading, writing about and understanding college-level documents in all subjects. The rigorous course shows students how to approach historical documents in a history course, for example, in different ways than they would a short story, biology textbook or chemistry lab report. Students learn to develop and defend ideas from the text and write about them in different formats.

Teachers who piloted the courses say students are highly engaged in discussion and writing about their topics and take ownership of their learning. Students say they have learned to think and understand more deeply by reading and annotating texts from different sources.

Math Ready: Ready for college-level math

SREB Math Ready emphasizes understanding of math concepts rather than just memorizing procedures. Students learn the “why” behind the procedure: why to use a certain formula or method to solve a problem, for example. This equips them to apply math skills, functions and concepts in different situations.
 
Math Ready pilot teachers say students have surprised them with their understanding and engagement. Students say they have learned to solve math problems by wrestling with them before asking for help and that the hands-on activities help them enjoy topics they dreaded in the past.