Work of MCC math faculty in national spotlight as example of innovative practice

Metropolitan Community College’s math faculty are featured in the first issue of Notes From the Field, a new publication from the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The Dana Center Mathematics Pathways Notes series spotlights innovative practices in institutions of higher education that are working to improve entry-level math programs.

MCC recently approved a new math course and changes to other math courses, effective Fall 2018. The number of MCC developmental math courses — classes taken by students to prepare for college-level coursework — is shrinking from three to two. Students taking developmental math will also have prescribed “pathways” from one course to another, depending on their program of study.

At the same time, MCC and other Missouri colleges are giving many students alternatives to college algebra, which until this semester had been the required, or gateway, math course.

Math pathways are a rapidly growing national movement in colleges and universities to align math courses more closely with students’ intended majors and career interests. Research strongly indicates that misaligned and lengthy math course sequences are a leading barrier for students trying to complete college and begin their careers.

The Dana Center Mathematics Pathways staff learned about MCC through work with the Missouri Math Pathways Task Force, which represents every public institution of higher education in the state and is facilitated by the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

In the Dana Center article, MCC math instructors Bill Morgan and Jason Pallett describe the strategies that mobilized faculty to redesign the College’s math courses.

“This is challenging work, and many institutional leaders worry about faculty resistance,” says Amy Getz, manager of systems implementation at the Dana Center. “The MCC story demonstrates that faculty will lead when given the opportunity and support.”

Carlos Peñaloza, Ph.D., MCC vice chancellor for instruction, says the math curriculum changes will “impact every degree program we offer as well as many individual courses,” but he is confident they will have a positive impact on student retention, persistence and completion.

“Our faculty rose to the occasion and developed a model that put our students at its core,” Peñaloza says.

Morgan and Pallett are both activity directors for MCC’s Title III federal research grants. The grants, known at MCC as FOCUS, aim to better serve first-year students. Much of the work has centered on improving developmental math and English courses.

Morgan was also a member of the statewide math pathways task force.

The Dana Center works with hundreds of community colleges and universities in 19 states and provides free resources for educational leaders across the country. The Notes From the Field series is designed to help educators learn from their peers at other institutions.

Notes from the Field No. 1 can be read at https://dcmathpathways.org/sites/default/files/resources/2017-11/Notes-from-the-Field-Number-1.pdf.

MCC’s Math Pathways Committee includes (front row, from left) Stacey McMillen, Jennifer Johnson, Cheryl Winter, (back row) Tim Chappell, Jason Pallett, Bill Morgan, Elisabeth Bletscher and Berg Heskin.