New students face harsh reality

Many unprepared for
college, must take
developmental courses

Alexandria RodriguezReporter

Students graduating from high school are less prepared to succeed in college, according to recent test scores and education studies.

There are about 1,400 students enrolled in developmental math courses at Del Mar College and an additional 700 in developmental English and reading courses, according to Erica Bertero, assistant professor of English and faculty coordinator of developmental education.

Only three out of 100 students will earn their bachelor’s degree, according to Bertero.

“Half of the students taking developmental courses will not complete the coursework sequence,” Bertero said. “The drop numbers are over 50 percent, and the repeat numbers are very high.”

According to Bertero, some students were pushed through in high school and realized something was wrong once they began college coursework. Some students expect that professors will push them along like those in high school did; however, that’s not the case in college and that will most likely leave them unsuccessful in the real world.

Bertero also had to take developmental courses for math and understands how these courses can “make or break you.” Her role as an assistant instructor for developmental English courses changed her view on a developmental population she knew nothing about. Since then, she has taught at least one developmental English course every semester.

Bertero said most students don’t know about developmental courses because people aren’t explaining it to them. They don’t understand how much more work it adds to their degree plan.

Studies have shown that 28 to 40 percent of undergraduate students enroll in at least one developmental course, according to the National Senior Classical League, an organization that promotes classical studies at the college level. More than half of community college students are enrolled in at least one developmental course.

Some 41 percent of Hispanic students, 42 percent of black students and 31 percent of white students need developmental courses, according to the National Senior Classical League.

According to the National Senior Classical League, only 25 percent of students who took the ACT in 2012 met the college readiness level for English, reading, math and science.

“I think the problem lies in our current school system,” said Terry Friedrichs, a part-time adjunct in math. “Talk to most math instructors and you will find students lack skills in fractions, percents and general number sense.”

Friedrichs said funding has removed textbooks in mathematics in elementary schools, where all the basics are taught. This “quick fix” has moved up to other grades, leaving students and parents without resources when help is needed.

“Take away their calculators and most students are lost and wandering in the dark,” Friedrichs said.

According to Friedrichs, only teachers with AP (Advanced Placement) courses focused on college-bound students, which has left more students less prepared at graduation. Passing a minimal skills test took priority over preparing students to go to college.

As reported earlier this year by the Caller-Times, only 44 percent of CCISD high school students passed statewide English I writing tests in 2012, 60 percent passed English I reading, and 68 percent passed Algebra I.

About 76 percent of the state’s high school students passed Algebra I, 67 percent passed English I reading and 54 percent passed English I writing, the Caller-Times reported.

“Core classes such as mathematics, the sciences, English and American history provide students with basic skills needed to start college,” said John Martinez, an instructor of United States history and Mexican American history at Solomon Coles High School. “History and English courses provide students with basic skills when it comes to learning how to read critically, write a basic research paper, and how to support their points of view with evidence.”

According to Martinez, students need the skill of continuously studying after they have learned the material. Students who fail to review their coursework can lose large amounts of the information they have learned during the last few weeks. Martinez said if students spend more time reviewing material, life would be much simpler.

“Students have to learn that life is based on schedules,” Martinez said. “There is a time for studying and class time as well as time for work, play and personal or family commitments.”

To be a successful student one must manage his or her time correctly and have a schedule that is structured, but flexible when it is needed, according to Martinez. Students who plan out their days in advance would know to complete the most important things first and go on to the other things when the most important is completed.

“The developmental classes help out in the areas they are not strong in,” said Federico Hernandez, a computer programming major at Del Mar College. “When they take a 1301 class or higher they won’t be left behind.”

“The developmental classes helped me a lot and developed my learning skills throughout the semester,” said Robert Rapheal Pierce, a kinesiology major at Del Mar College. “So these noncredit courses are not really useless.”

Students who take developmental courses will spend more time in college and spend more money on classes as well as books, according to MDRC, an education research organization.

Colleges and policymakers are looking for ways to lessen the time students spend taking developmental education courses by implementing summer bridge programs. The programs occur in the summer between high school graduation and fall entry in college. The goal is to offer students accelerated learning that can help them reduce the need for developmental courses and prepare them for a successful college career, according to

By the spring of 2014 intergraded courses of developmental English and reading will be offered at Del Mar College, and by fall of 2014 the integrated courses will be all that is offered, according to Bertero. The goal is to give the students a chance to accelerate and move on from developmental coursework faster.

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