Underprepared First-Time Students – Our Work in Improving College Readiness at the University of Kentucky

Since before Senate Bill 1 (2009), UGE has been tasked with implementing and documenting the results of the state’s unified college & career readiness policies (http://www.uky.edu/UGE/what). In a team from across all the education sectors of KY, several key strategies were identified then codified, and over the years UK has worked to address all of them (http://www.uky.edu/UGE/readiness).

UK’s Academic Preparation Program serves as one of those strategies. Academic Enhancement leadership in Spring 2011 expanded the APP to serve more students than those who are admitted to UK without having reached the state’s college readiness benchmarks – and in Fall 2014 the writing and reading programming was expanded to include ESL courses for international students not meeting statewide benchmarks (for details on all the different options at UK, visit the website at http://www.uky.edu/UGE/APP). The APP offers the official University Placement Tests (or accepts those taken elsewhere and certified by the UK Registrar) to our admitted students as per 13:KAR 2:020, including the ACT COMPASS and KYOTE as well as ALEKS (see the Kentucky College Readiness Indicators, scores and student competencies for each of the current statewide academic pathways in math, writing and reading). The Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education works with each of the undergraduate college deans to ascertain compliance and success rates for their students admitted to UK as first-time, full-time degreeseeking students. This follow-up is crucial in complying with the statewide transfer policy that includes the general education outcomes (see the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) website for the expanded policy that went into effect in Fall 2012 for the Kentucky public institutions’ transfer agreement).

The state (i.e., KY legislators, the Governor and the CPE) measures 2 big performance indicators and each institution’s contributions to them:

  1. reducing college remediation rates of KY’s recent high school graduates (this is measured primarily by the success rates of UK’s College of Education’s teacher prep, but UK has expanded this effort with such statewide initiatives as Umentor@UK and GUK Summer Academy@UK)
  2. increasing college completion rates of students enrolled in one or more developmental education courses (these indicators have recently been shored up with a policy “guiding principles” document that our President agreed to abide by last spring – download the document here) – in which they promised to work on embedding remediation into credit-bearing content courses and offer access to credit-bearing coursework no later than the beginning of the second academic semester.

The main points to remember here are that (a) students admitted to UK who meet the state’s benchmark scores are guaranteed entrance into credit-bearing work, without need of remediation; and (b) UK is responsible for increasing high quality degree production and completion rates at all levels and to close achievement gaps, particularly for lower-income students, underprepared students (as measured by the statewide benchmark scores), and underrepresented minority students.

The incremental targets are measured annually and shared with the College Readiness Leads each year. The bigger targets per institution are negotiated out of the President’s Office and approved by the KY Council of Presidents and the CPE Board. See for example UK’s latest performance scorecard for 2012-13 (download .pdf here). Some of the information shared with the College Readiness Leads this year regarding statewide goals are included below.

Presentation by CPE staff on October 9, 2015 Click on thumbnail to see larger image
The Kentucky Department of Education reports that the number of recent Kentucky high school graduates ready for college and career has been steadily increasing – from 34% in 2010 (just ACT subscores) to 66.8% in 2015 (both college as well as career readiness indicators) College and Career Readiness Rates
The CPE reports that the percent of recent Kentucky high school graduates who entered college in Kentucky and met statewide readiness standards is increasing – from 52% in 2010-11 to 70.1% in 2013-14. College Readiness of College Entrants
CPE reports that completion of “gateway” coursework within 2 years for 2012-13 first-time students enrolled and not enrolled in developmental courses at the KCTCS and regional universities (i.e., 4-year institutions but not UK or UofL) are abysmal. The chart shows that KCTCS first-time students who take dev ed courses do worse in their gateway courses than those who do not – but less than half of all students complete the gateway courses. In regional universities, the dev ed completers are significantly less prepared to succeed in the gateway courses than those who completed already prepared. How are we doing? KCTCS & Regional Universities 2012-13
When we include UK in the description of completion of gateway courses – the achievement gaps in gateway courses are much smaller for those students who have/haven’t achieved the statewide benchmark scores. Students at UK who took WRD110 or CIS110 in their first year (summer, fall, spring) with a low subscore in writing or reading, the success rates are very high – between 75-85%. For UK students who take MA109 (College Algebra) or MA111 (Liberal Arts Math) in their first year, the success rates are highest of all the Kentucky institutions: more than 60% whether they had a low ACT subscore or not. The big difference (though still higher success rates than in any other Kentucky institution) was if a student had a less than 19 on their Math ACT subscore – barely 47.3% success rate in UK’s MA111 course. College Course Completion in First Year English, 2012-13 and 2013-14
English Course Completion (e.g., WRD 110 or CIS 110 at UK)
College Course Completion in First Year Math, 2012-13 and 2013-14Liberal Arts Math Completion (e.g., MA 111 at UK)
Course Completion First Year in College Algebra, 2012-13 and 2013-14
College Algebra Completion (e.g., MA 109 at UK)

With the help of our colleagues in Enrollment Management, UK Academic Technologies, and the undergraduate colleges, we will continue to monitor the success of these underprepared students and work together to find new and innovative ways for program improvement.

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About UK Student and Academic Life

Undergraduate Education is now recreated within the Division of Student and Academic Life in the Provost's Office at the University of Kentucky.
This entry was posted in College/Career Readiness, General Education, Orientation, Retention, Transfer, UK Core, Undergraduate Curriculum and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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