Reporter’s notebook

  • Los Angeles district pilots teaching certain classes in Spanish
  • A final push to get short-term Pell done this year
  • Strengthening student support services
  • Research on math, CTE efforts in Virginia

Los Angeles district pilots teaching certain classes in Spanish

The Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) will teach select basic education classes in Spanish during its winter session to see if it encourages city residents who struggle with English to enroll and continue with their education.

The In-Language Learning program will focus on 23 classes across six of nine college campuses starting January 3. The pilot is in response to U.S. Census data that indicates 2.2 million people in Los Angeles self-identify as speaking English “less than well,” which hinders their education, according to LACCD.

The classes in the pilot will cover topics around computer basics, healthcare, child development, nutrition, English as a second language, GED preparation and workplace success. The programming aims to build an educational foundation for further career exploration as well as develop new skills, the district says. For the spring semester, LACCD hopes to expand classes to other languages.

“By expanding these new in-language classes for the community, I believe we are removing obstacles to educational opportunities,” said LACCD Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez. “This overall strategy will increase access, expand community connections as well make education in reach for more students who thought it was not attainable.”

A final push to get short-term Pell done this year

As federal lawmakers work on a fiscal year 2023 omnibus appropriations package, the American Association of Community Colleges and six other education and workforce development organizations are asking Congressional leaders to include an extension of Pell Grant eligibility to qualifying short-term programs in the legislation.

In a December 9 letter to House and Senate leaders, the organizations observed the challenges that employers continue to face in hiring enough skilled workers and cited successful efforts in Virginia in providing support for certain short-term workforce programs.

“Expanding Pell Grant eligibility to shorter-term education and training programs will help create affordable and accessible pathways to postsecondary credentials for tens of thousands of students,” the groups said.

The language the organizations are requesting to include reflects the bipartisan amendment which passed as part of COMPETES Act, as well as the proposed bipartisan amendment to the 2021 U.S. Innovation and Competition Act that was included as part of the manager’s package. Both amendments were based on language from the JOBS Act (S. 864, H.R. 2037), which has 50 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate.

Strengthening student support services

New Ithaka S+R research highlights effective collaborative strategies to help community colleges maximize their services to help students succeed. A key thread among promising practices: fostering greater collaboration across campus units to more effectively provide those services.

Among the study’s recommendations to colleges:

  • Assess how students currently use support services and resources, and determine how best to respond to unmet needs.
  • Share and discuss strategic plans regularly with other department partners.
  • Create faculty or staff liaisons to more efficiently communicate between departments.
  • Prioritize collaboration over competition, and seek external relationships and resources.
  • Offer space for professional development opportunities as technology changes.
  • Provide students with information in one identifiable place to help destigmatize asking for help.

Research on math, CTE efforts in Virginia

The University of California, Irvine, (UCI) is leading a pair of research projects to make math and career and technical (CTE) programs more effective for community college students.

The U.S. Education Department’s Institute of Education Sciences provided a $1.7 million grant to the university to examine non-credit CTE. UCI, which started the project in June, is collaborating with the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), University of Virginia and MDRC. UCI noted that there is little research on the effectiveness of non-credit programs, especially whether students who complete the courses get better jobs and pay.

Next month, UCI will launch another study with a $1.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study community colleges’ efforts to support students who are underprepared for college-level math. It will include the University of Delaware and again VCCS to measure the success of the system’s Direct Enrollment Reform. The VCCS program aims to improve access to and success in gateway math courses by incorporating three key components:

  • More accurate placement
  • Proactive advising and coaching
  • A “corequisite model” that provides support as students are concurrently enrolled in the gateway courses

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.