More Than Rules: College Transition Math Teaching for GED Graduates at The City University of New York

Much has been written about the high percentage of high school and GED graduates who enter community colleges needing remedial coursework and the low rates of retention and graduation for these students. Reports on how to improve outcomes for underprepared students often focus on the merits of adopting specific program components such as learning communities, computer-assisted instruction, accelerated learning, supplemental instruction, career-based curricula, intensive advisement, or faculty inquiry groups. Certainly, many of these can be useful features of a high-quality transition or remedial program. Unfortunately, though, too little attention is given to exactly how instructors teach students in these classrooms. There is an urgent need to re-examine the
ways we teach underprepared students entering college. Re-focusing attention on pedagogy must also cause us to re-think how we approach content, assessment, curricula, staff development, student placement, and research.

This paper describes how the College Transition Program (CTP) has attempted to strengthen GED graduates’ transition into The City University of New York (CUNY) through a semester of reading, writing, mathematics, and academic advisement. More precisely, this paper focuses on math teaching and learning in CTP.

CTP has worked almost exclusively with GED graduates, but we believe the early results will be interesting to a variety of programs working with students who enter college underprepared in math including GED programs more widely, college remedial math departments, and high schools. This paper is for instructors and administrators who work in these settings as well as for researchers, policy makers, and funders. At times, some technical math teaching language may be used but the bulk of these instances are limited to the footnotes and appendices. Much of this paper should be readable by a wide audience.

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