Mandatory Early Start Program to begin this summer

This summer, the mathematics department at SF State will launch its pilot online course for the new Mandatory Early Start Program, requiring incoming freshmen to begin remedial courses before their first semester in the California State University system.

The pilot program at SF State consists of modules on the iLearn website that students can complete at their own pace, said co-creator of the program and mathematics lecturer Andy Beyer.

Students will incur no additional costs to regular tuition for taking the class.

“We’re trying to give students an opportunity to get a jump start on the remediation process so that they can take more college level courses during the semester,” Beyer said.

The modules reflect high school level material in the same way remedial courses, such as Math 60, function during the semester.

In addition to completing remediation, the online summer course will allow students to begin preparation for quantitative reasoning requirements like introductory statistics or business calculus.

“We’re trying to create new opportunities,” Beyer said, who co-created the summer course with mathematics department chair David Boa.

Graduate students will be available for support through email, and Math 60 and Math 70 will still be offered during the semester for students who do not complete the summer program, Beyer said.

“We’re not trying to make a substitute for personal contact,” Beyer said.  “We’re trying to give the opportunity for supplementation through the Internet.”

Last November, each CSU campus was asked to submit a proposal to the Board of Trustees on how to implement MESP.

Administrators in Academic Affairs Division of Undergraduate Studies, who helped draft the SF State MESP proposal, declined to comment because the program is still being developed.

An online pilot program has already taken place at CSU Fullerton with over 85 percent of participants completing their remediation for math, according to the CSU website.

According to the CSU website, more than 60 percent of all CSU first-time freshman need remediation because they did not score high enough on their entry-level math or English placement exams.

However, the faculty and staff have scrutinized MESP for possibly restricting access to the CSU for low-income students and students of color, who have higher rates of remediation, said Kimberly King, associate professor and director of the social justice and community psychology lab at CSU Los Angeles.

In a MESP presentation at SF State on March 9, King said 53 percent of black freshmen needed remedial courses, along with 74 percent of Mexican-Americans and 60 percent of Asian-Americans.

“The University should be facilitating students’ educational progress, not putting up more barriers,” King said.  “We have to raise people’s consciousness, and one way is to focus on specific policies that hold us down.”

Enrollment restrictions, which were a byproduct of the $1.4 billion budget cuts the CSU has suffered over the last two years, created the need for MESP, King said.

However, MESP might be another barrier for thousands of eligible students who are unable to complete summer courses because they have to work to support their families, King said.

Kimberly Varges, a Latina hospitality management and tourism major for example, had a 3.8 high school GPA when she applied to SF State but needed to take remedial math classes.

Vargas, now a junior, said she wouldn’t have been able to start classes in the summer because she worked two jobs to supplement her mother’s $13,000 yearly salary.

“I’m one of those statistics,” Vargas said.

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