Challenges and Solutions

At the two regional meetings, participants identified challenges and brainstormed the solutions.  Here is the compilation of the responses. 

The Coordinator as Leader. 3

Time, time, time. 3

Defining a Shared Vision for Basic Skills. 4

Change. 4

Achieving an Institutional Commitment. 5

Effectively organizing Basic Skills Programs. 5

Integrating Student Services and instruction involved with BS. 7

The connection between Basic Skills and Transfer/Workplace. 7

Role of the Basic Skills Coordinator. 9

Faculty Inquiry Groups. 10

(C)overt bias vs diversity. 11

How to keep students from dropping out. 12

Juan Cruz and funding/reporting issues. 12

Hot Topics from Systems Office by Dr. Juan Cruz. 13

Staff Development. 14

Collaborations and Alignment of Outcomes with K-12. 14

Pre-and post assessments. 14

“Blame the Victim”   (the students). 16

Institutionalizing BSI beyond the grant. 16



·         Many faculty say believe, but don’t have the time.  Have trouble finding what admin support looks like.  Get into difficulties with specific departments who see their departments as not related to problem but don’t see them as part of solution. 

·         Adjunct faculty—freeway fliers.  Getting them involved.

·         Blame the victim—faculty who don’t see their role in all of this. 

·         Faculty who don’t want to do something where they are being told what to do.  Major mistrust of administration.

·         Must be faculty-up, not top down. 

·         Disconnect between expectations of what faculty think their job is based on what they learned in grad school, etc.  The mindset of faculty has to change.  Reframe the mission of the college for faculty. 



·         Need to retrain faculty that they will have basic skill’s students.  Also need sensitivity and understanding to student population.

·         Need faculty development to retrain teachers so they know that they have BS students. 

·         Maybe mentor or pair reading/writing with subject faculty to help subject faculty teach these skills. 

·         Give incentives to go to conferences.  Look at teaching whole institution to use BS money.  Use money to get buy-in. 

·         Pick several conferences to send people too, including adjunct, and use BS money to go to. 

·         Find key people to get involved in CTE.  Perhaps have a coordinator from CTE who gets release time  in a model where there is more than one coordinator. 

·         On job descriptions have something about working with Basic Skills students. 

·         Perhaps try to add an additional level of accountability for faculty—measures put into place and consequences (won’t work at all campuses) Refrain expectations of faculty

·         Senate and college council be involved with  BS committees.  Have Senate president be a part of this committee. 

·         Pull rank?

·         More communication about problems with BS

·         Doing faculty training on how to access BS money

·         Spread the word more through e-mails

·         Newsletters

·         Made presentations at faculty development days, divisions, departments, President’s forum. 

·         Website at Valencia College which deals with adjunct faculty.  Get credit for doing something—stipend or some other sort of credit. 

·         At Hartnell had a meeting that talked about strategies learned from assessment and then they had discussions in departments. 

·         Active support of President

·         Work on getting more support services involved –admissions, counseling, assessment

·         Align basic skills with first year experience so get counselor involved

·         Need to recruit Basic Skills Coordinator who can do outreach—go to department meeting for 10 minutes, pass out information, show how it was advantage to students, program, sign-up sheet for e-mail, fill out form with ideal day and time to meet which brought more people into meetings. 

·         Succession plan for BS coordinators similar to Senate officers

·         Training for contact people

·         After Professional Development Activity, person who went will present highlights of meeting.  Invite dean to those meetings. Can do brown bag lunch, workshop, etc.   Need dean’s enthusiasm about this too. 

·         Why people wanted to buy in

o   Important work

o   Student success

o   Help students transfer

o   Improve rentention rates

o   Workshops and tutoring across the curriculum

o   Have faculty who are interested in education as a tool of social justice

o   Committed administrator

o   E-mail not enough

o   Adjunct involvement is hard to get

o   Flashy fliers won’t sell

o   Talk to people one-on-one


·         Pathway analysis

Regular path analysis – what do students need and should we help them get through it faster?  (e.g. Elementary and Intermediate Algebra in one semester)  90% of students retaking the assessment test place one course higher


·         Crossing Borders – How do you enroll students?  Initially getting counseling buy-in.  Has to be prime time, anyone testing into a basic skills gets a postcard inviting them, get student ambassadors to visit other classes for subsequent semesters, “reg-to-go” go to high schools and immediately register students at the h.s. site. 



·         Tri-share basic skills coordinator position:  English, counseling, math? Rob Johnson’s spreadsheet return-on-investment (cost-revenue) model is on Basic Skills website under publications

·         Assign subgroups tasks.  (Delegate)

·         Set goals and prioritize to focus the energy’s and spend the funds before they expire.

·         Pay additional staff to help coordinate

a) Time to meet with other faculty/faculty coordinators

b) Time to get faculty together to discuss BS issues


Challenges are:

  • motivation (can we break out different groups – e. g. ESL or math and provide lunch), how often, what level of meeting,
  • Having a lead person that is effective in directing the meeting. 
  • It’s hard to get a professional development session to “teach teachers”  it might be better to do an inquiry session and provide FLEX credit.


  • Going to established meetings and co-opting time. 
  • PT faculty – holding intensive one-day workshops (all day Saturday) and paying stipends for attendance out of BSI money.
  • Part-time faculty leadership in these workshops. 
  • Website presence (e.g.
  • Offer professional growth units offer reassigned time and/or stipends to research and design interdisciplinary. 
  • Offer major stipends during winter and/or summer for faculty to get together for 6 hours per day. 
  • Friday lunch/breakfast club – one topic discussed in depth,  departmental meetings discuss topics related to basic skills, facilitators to keep these discussions on track, facilitator training.


  • Turning the complaints of faculty who teach into opportunities,


  • shift how we approach students from a deficit model – don’t focus on the negative but how can we work with strengths,


  • find resources on campus that can address problems for students,


  • have the discussion about who the students are; who gets the money, positions; how do we balance resources – staff, student support services staff, counselors, basic skills faculty, other programmatic faculty? 


Need a core group

Good change always creates resistance

Issue of philosophy/vision statement/mission of developmental education

How does that become our guide/philosophy/

Should it be from the top down?

Evaluate and assess faculty more accurately

Role is to educate our faculty

Trying to be change agent:  Share statistics – actively

You don’t have to change everybody.  Change a few, try for critical mass.

Holistic connection


Not enough sections of courses at the basic skill level

·         Perhaps it is time to get serious and mandate that developmental level students have a year to reach transfer level or discontinue.  This would reduce number of students in other courses (i.e., those that they don't belong in anyway).  This is a long-term project that we need to chip away at.

·         Gradually expand the number of basic skills faculty, especially with retirements in disciplines and departments that work only at the transfer level.  This requires a serious commitment to changing the decisions about WHERE faculty are hired and on WHAT BASIS they are hired 

·         Senior leadership/institutional leadership needs to show clear recognition that numbers of students in disciplines/transfer level departments WILL go down as pre-requisites are mandated.  This helps reduce fear among faculty in those departments.

·         Transparency in numbers of students being turned away, as well as equity statistics emerging from demographic profiles of students who can't register for the developmental courses they need.  This helps increase institutional commitment to increase the number of faculty, the quality of faculty, and the number of sections provided at the developmental level.

·         Ironically, the current funding climate and the holding pattern that it engenders, suggests that it may be an ideal time to allow temporary reductions in productivity.

·         Break down some of the sham that we, California Community Colleges, pretend to and are expected to provide access, even as we turn away large numbers of students from the very courses that they need.  On a philosophical, ethical, and moral level, we must not only throw open the door but provides them with the sections of the courses they need.

·         Gain buy in through connecting Basic Skills to every plan, report, and other effort that the college is producing, e.g., matriculation, counseling, accreditation, etc.


·         Need to make the coordinator a full-time position in at least one institution and then spread it out over the College

·         The job must be an FTE since it is basically transforming the College.

·         Having a comprehensive, inclusive committee that, with BSI resources, can actually accomplish something.

·         Here's the link for the Noel-levitz cost of retention tool. 


    1. What is being done on campuses

·   Dean of SS and Dean of Counseling is added to the agenda in the Dean’s meeting to hear what is going with management

·   Counselors make three contacts with English and do education plans with students.  English dept. asked for this to happen

·   Students getting the right advice for courses to take

·   Students coming to campus too late for “welcome party”

    1. Solutions

·   Seeing if the counselor can attend classes three times during the semester

·   Sending the basic skills faculty to speak with the counselors one on one

·   Have counselors develop a training program one time to

·   Counselors have a laptop to book appts with students in the class

·   What is the counseling objective or goal?  What is the outcome that is expected?  Develop this first then approach the counseling

·   Ice breakers

·   Learning communities: 

·   Learning communities café;  meets on a weekly basis to discuss what is working and what isn’t.  includes SI, faculty, title V scribe, 

·   Welcome Center:  Assessment test, A & R, all in one center to make it student friendly and inviting for all languages represented on campus.

·   Mission College in San Jose has a great Welcome Center

·   Student ambassadors, welcome party, marketing plan to get them to come

·   Give students free stuff to come to campus earlier

·   Provide bussing to get students on campus earlier

·   Provide tours for all students of all campus services and resources

·   Create videos on campus of services …humorous and fun

·   ACTLA--


Having the students see the value of a foundational course

a.       Problems:

§  Faculty overloaded

§  Connect business world to courses:  Discussion of value and application to the workforce

§  Faculty is so focused on their own courses that they don’t see the connection between their course and other courses, jobs

§  Overloaded faculty


b.      Solutions:

§  Faculty development

§  Community Collaborative Grant

§  Bring in community members:  Technical writing connection

§  Faculty collaborate to understand the skills they need in each others courses---- the FIG approach…

§  Admin. Support

§  Overloaded faculty need to share the burden


  • Vision beyond developmental ed efforts, integrating efforts and educating faculty in all other disciplines
  • How do we do this?
    • Highly coordinated program – centralized program seems to be more effective because people are together talking about what they’re doing
      • What does it mean to be highly coordinated:  work together, look at course outlines and see how things overlap
      • Departments talking to each other
      • Work on scheduling
      • Create strong links in interdiscipline
      • Align SLO’s
      • Members have a clear idea of where they’re going
      • Coordinating rep to a steering committee in and between departments
      • Communication between departments
      • Bringing in others beyond basic skills, esp. support staff
      • Distance themselves from expectations
    • Why is it important?
        • Progress
        • Eliminate duplication of efforts
        • Diversity of students
        • Diversity of areas
        • Gaps in student learning
        • Establish institutional mission of Basic Skills, not a flash-in-the-pan
        • Multiple interventions brought together
        • To help faculty in other disciplines understand


  • Getting to Highly Coordinated
    • Establish term lengths for coordinators
    • Work towards 100% release
    • Write job descriptions (appendices for Ch. 18)
    • Create organized hiring processes for future coordinators


  • How would you go about starting to get these things on your campus?
    • Committee approved administrative job description
    • Show what are other colleges doing and what the BSI state initiative recommends
    • Approach administrators with the idea for a faculty position
    • Prove that this funding and the basic skills issues are not going to go away
    • Show that this problem is pervasive across disciplines


Traits of Highly coordinated Programs (in the poppy copy)

  • What are some of the major hurdles

o   Lack of structure

o   Lack of authority

o   Knowing how to “make things happen”

o   Some college-level faculty want you to “fix those underprepared students”

o   Keeping your committee focused and on track

o   Lack of support from administrators

o   The dreaded one-level-below transfer courses – Basic skills or not?  We can fund courses on anything that helps students be prepared to succeed in transfer programs.  Intermediate algebra, elementary algebra can be funded if they are being changed for innovations. 



  • Finding Solutions Together
    • Build a network of coordinators
    • Meet periodically to discuss problems and solutions
    • Use a list serve to discuss ideas
    • Organize “think tanks” on your campus and invite coordinators from across the state
    • Get to know a coordinator from another region



  • Practice What We Preach



Role of shared governance in developing Action Plans

  • Skyline
  • Santa Monica
  • Sierra
  • Sample action plans at butte college and college of alameda, Chp. 2 of BSI Handbook on Barbara’s website
  • What is a good time for submitting action plans? 
  • Senate Plenary session on BSI and share governance role



National Association for Developmental Education (NADE)  February


o   Professional Development with the Goal of Improving Teaching and Learning

o   P. 30 from Poppy Copy re student retention and faculty development

o   Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching:  on faculty inquiry.  SPEC grant work.  Definition of faculty inquiry:  faculty working with faculty, close examination of student work, recursive quality – get results ask more questions

o   Components of faculty inquiry that support a program’s ability to improve student learning over time: 

o   Collaborative investigation into student learning

o   Engaging or thorny question

o   Designing backwards

o   Integration of research and effective practice

o   Analysis of student work

o   A “product” (individually or collectively produced)


Examples in math:

Prealgebra instructors were asked:  why don’t students learn or retain their math skills?


(What is your hypothesis?)

Data:  on average 80% of our entering students assess into pre-transfer math; 70% below Intermediate Algebra

·         Your hypothesis can drive the inquiry… website at Los Medanos

·         Random sample of final exams assessed using a rubric.  Discussed problems that were found.  Faculty agreed that students didn’t have a conceptual underpinning of the mathematics

·         Readings on conceptual understanding.  Began to write classroom activities.  Reflections on inquiry:  first time doing research; do what feels right in the past.  Design backwards approach.  Focus of inquiry, integration of research and effective practice, analysis of different types of student work, impact on teaching – yielded more questions than answers in the first semester.  Follow-up work:  How do we work mathematical reasoning into the formulaic approach that we expect from students? 

·         Describe a “turn-around” moment in math:  Intermediate Algebra FIG:  Why do I need to know this?  Data:  ~80% of our students who successfully complete Intermediate Algebra take Statistics.  Intermediate Algebra FIG started with a course outline of 62 objectives. 

Designing Backwards form the LMC DE Math program SLOs:

Problem-solving – modeling

Mathematical versatility – modeling


Preparation for subsequent courses

Effective Learning Attributes

Resulted in radically different course

Collaboratively written exams and class activities aligned with PSLOs


Data:  sample (N= 28 – 32)  big jump in versatility from f04 to sp05.  Big jump in problem solving from sp05 – f05. (they think it resulted from using Polya’s method of synthesizing task first)


What are the learning outcomes and what are you doing to get these outcomes?  Need to stress this often so that they are accomplished.  Lesson study – observations that focus on what are the students doing?


Can Problem Solving Become a Habit of Mind?  Website of Los Medanos math faculty re his strategy for teaching. 

Resources: , ,


  • theory vs. practice
  • data collection to show that basic skills students ARE the campus’s students
  • use Student Equity Plan categories to analyze class results to see what the true retention and persistence data is for “at-risk” classes
  • Use “Equity for All” research model – track “transfer-potentials” for three years to generate persistence data and then breakout by SEP categories
  • CTE tracking
  • Faculty Inquiry Groups
  • Scholar-Baller program
  • Unite various pockets of campus effort together under first-semester experience to share best practices and data collection/results



Issues—differing perceptions

a)      First year students think that the teachers don’t care about them if they miss class; teachers expect them to act like college students

b)      Possible solution: counseling component—intrusive approach—will call students…

College of Siskyous are doing this for the math area

·         Basic question: What are the students’ needs

·         Merced College (EOPS)-Welfare syndrome- because they were still calling 6th semester students. They aborted the calling.

o   Mandatory orientations—increase the time for orientations; deduct $ if you miss meetings

·         Reaching out to the high schools to help students make that transition to college

·         Obstacle : helicopter parenting vs. parents who don’t care or are not present

·         Instructional aides used per classroom

·         We need to research why students are exiting

·         Student Engagement—



1.       Whether the timelines are appropriate

2.       State finance office—need to look at what you are actually doing that is making a difference

a.       Poppy copy –p. 102  look at the database that you should have in place for 2006-2007 data—use that as a base

                                                               i.      Look at ARC format for reporting. Make that a priority.

b.      By end of 2009 fiscal year—need to do an analysis of what happened in -07-08

c.       Forms to change again—budget attached to it---what worked and didn’t work

d.      Expenditure plans and action plans—need to know what are the better dates

                                                               i.      Problem with may/june dates—can only work with revise from previous year.

3.       Need to get beyond the local politics to get things going.  The academic senate president may be a better source of authority.

4.       Juan has to deal with the dept. of finance folks

5.       Basic Skills has always been there for districts over cap. These have been redirected

6.       Be careful with funding ongoing supplemental  tutoring; it could be double dipping.

7.       Can’t use for  equipment/software that won’t be used 100% for basic skills and ESL Students

e.      Also can’t use it for electrical/data infrastructure

f.        Question—consolidation of the different plans such as student equity/matriculation/self assessment.

g.       Get p2 reports—this tells you  how much was received for basic skills

Communication will be made available on the Basic Skills Coordinators list serve

Carry over/encumbered on the last report shows that the money has been committed.  The quicker you can project those decisions, the CBOs will feel more comfortable with your choices.

These were some questions addressed by Juan Cruz at the meeting in Southern California:

Information about CB 21

1.       Which Expenditure Plans should BS Coordinators should be vigilant about?

2.       Do you want to know how much money has been spent or what is needed?

3.       Time Line for Action Plan: Is there any possibility to change the date for submission?

4.       Coordinator’s release time. Is there some formula to come up with the release time?

a.       To what extend should the college be matching the release time through the general fund?

5.       What is the relationship between the Basic Skills funds and the general funds especially now with the budget cuts for basic skills classes?

6.       What is the relationship between matriculation funds and Basic Skills funds?

7.       What direction will Basic Skills Initiative (Phase IV) take regarding equity and diversity issues?

8.       January 31st report-what would the state like to see in this report? Especially since colleges are fearful of how the money will be spent.

a.       Begin re-thinking of what we are doing?

9.       What happens after January 31st?  What other report will be due? July 31

10.   If faculty coordinators make the action plan, who should be overseeing budget?

11.   Will 08-09 BSI funding be jeopardized?  Should we go ahead with plans?

12.   How should any position funded by Basic Skills be worded?

13.   What are definitions of some of terms where funding cannot be used? (OTHER is the most popular category)

14.   What direction is the state moving in the connection between non-credit to be incorporated into Basic Skills funding?

a.       Is there any chance to develop local courses for approval?

15.   What type of data collection and accountability will be expected?

CB 21 will be the mechanism to project how students proceed.



Challenge—funded but no one to do the work


·         Faculty who need to be trained are not available.

·         Too many adjuncts teaching basic skills courses

·         Brown bags are done once a month by English dept

·         Challenge –how do get more people to do the training. Stipends are minimally helpful.

·         Summer institute—can’t train all faculty in state. Look at summer basic skills leadership institute.

·         Basic Skills Resource Network

·         Faculty inquiry could also be worked in summer institute

·         Go through the information of the BSI conferences  at your college.


Can we use BSI funding for stipends to high school faculty for alignment work?


East Palo Alto Academy:

Working to address social injustice in schools

Promising practices that limit high school graduation, college readiness, college-going rates.  Fast-track courses to prepare for health professions offered at the high school (health careers and biology, ECS, peer counseling,

1.       Assessment,

2.       curriculum,

3.  ELA Blueprint

Examples of tests 

  • TABE
  • Board of Governors conducted a study of assessment tools that colleges are using. E-mail the senate office to get the study.
  • Nelson Denny –pre and post reading tool: Forms E and F (Matriculation uses H). The test results are utilized to meet program needs.
  • Acuplacer
  • Stanford writing diagnostic test
  • Writing samples
  • A+dvancer test – allows for pre-assessment for writing and math


Ways to use an assessment

  • Go to the researcher and get the matriculation scores for each student in the class. Then, compare student reading level to the required reading skill for a given instructor’s text.
  • When students are placed in math, college is looking at gaps in scores and talking to the high schools about the gaps in knowledge.
  • Have subject instructors come up with a basic passage and ask some basic questions. Then give an intervention. Then test again at midterm. Use the data to demonstrate success and needs on the campus.


Time to offer REAL leadership as opposed to project management

·         Separate a BSI “Leader,” and a task force of project managers from each discipline (e.g. Reading, Writing, Math and ESL), paid with 20% release time, to coordinate each project. Disciplines go through the coordinator to get referrals to each group for help. Groups meet weekly.


…Faculty saying the students aren’t prepared..they blame the student.

·         Skip Downing    “On Course” Generation Me Speaker…knowing your students Students Set up ground rules

·         Models of a Good Teacher/Good Student …

·         Values clarification

·         Faculty co-horts  Focus Groups   FIGs

·         Kathleen Gabriel Speaker:  effective strategies for underprepared students

·         Have students bring skills to the classroom

·         Student Voices  at Board mtgs/Faculty mtg

·         Instructional strategies …from training to innovations in the classroom

·         Teaching Institute

·         Peer observations to share and tell at the Summer Institute across disciplines

·         Career Technical Instructors  

·         Personal relationships …going face to face…outreach

·         Include them as a BSI committee member

·         Career Based English class

·         Career Advancement Academy

·         Schedule changes..and/or learning communities   ESL w/ woodworking class

·         Automotive Class combined w/ English

·         Marketing and branding within college documentation/web site/publications.

·         Announcements of appreciation, accomplishments and opportunities

·         Expect something NOW that affect the students.

·         Get them involved in FIG’s, then they own the issue.

·         Look at the students in basic skills math and English.  See what the factors are.  E.g.  at one school the English students were fresh out of HS while the math students were returning older students.  Perhaps a self-paced refresher would better serve the math students.

·         IDEA – at one of the basic skills meetings have a panel of students discuss what works for them.

·         “You are doing a lot of great things randomly.”