By Megan Swallia
As a math professor at the College of Southern Nevada (CSN), I (and many of my colleagues) are incredibly worried about how things will pan out once we are required to remove remedial mathematics education from our catalog. Even in a corequisite model, a business student who can’t add two fractions with like denominators (which is a 4th grade standard in the Clark County School District) would initially be placed into College Algebra with a maximum of three extra credits’ worth of time to learn what was missed between 4th grade and college. That doesn’t even equate to an additional three hours per week in a 16-week semester. There is simply going to be no way for this student to succeed with this model.
CSN will also have to face the fact that many of our math classes are taught by adjunct instructors who do not have the credentials to teach college-level mathematics. So they should get the credentials, you say? That’s unlikely, as being an adjunct is usually a side gig that pays so little it wouldn’t be worth it to go back to college. CSN will be losing a good portion of the staff qualified to teach remedial, but not college-level, classes.
We don’t have enough math faculty as it is and without our adjunct instructors, there simply won’t be enough people qualified to teach the number of classes needed. So the college-level class a student had to fight to even get into might be cancelled the night before classes start with no replacement to offer. And classrooms have fire code caps so the answer isn’t to increase class size. A classroom that has 28 student desks can only have 28 students enrolled.
I can’t speak for every one of my colleagues, but the general consensus is that the current system is not working and that something needs to change.
I, personally, would love to see a mixed model with more one-on-one advising so students can choose between the corequisite class, a traditional 16-week 3-credit remedial class, two 8-week remedial fast-paced classes or a self-paced class with more one-on-one time with the instructor. And I’d also like to see the NSHE system embrace a model that many systems that have switched over already have: making Math 96 (Intermediate Algebra) a 100-level class that wouldn’t count toward mathematics credit (because the material is middle/high school), but could be applied as elective credits.
Until the Clark County School District stops making teachers offer as many test retakes as a student wishes, takes away the minimum F policy, and stops forcing teachers to change failing grades to passing grades, CSN will always have issues with remediation. We are an open-enrollment institution and the new corequisite policies will severely limit options for our students.
Author disclaimer: These are my views and not the views of CSN or the NSHE.
Megan Swallia teaches at the College of Southern Nevada.