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  • A n d e r s t , M a l o y , a n d S h a h a r / A s s e s s i n g t h e A c c e l e r a t e d L e a r n i n g P r o g r a m 11

    > Leah Anderst, Jennifer Maloy, and Jed Shahar

    Assessing the Accelerated Learning Program Model for Linguistically Diverse

    Developmental Writing Students

    This article uses quantitative and qualitative means to assess the impact of an Accelerated Learning Program on the performance and satisfaction of students designated ESL

    and developmental at a large, urban community college.

    Over the past ten years, two-year college writing programs have participated in a significant movement toward accelerated learning, designing and implement- ing a variety of Accelerated Learning Programs (ALPs). Created by Peter Adams at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) in 2007, ALP invites students who have been placed into remediation to enroll concurrently in two linked courses taught by the same instructor: an upper-level developmental writing class and a credit-bearing first-year writing course. Rather than a prerequisite to credit courses, then, the upper-level developmental course becomes a co-requisite, so students can move into college level courses more quickly.

    This article describes the implementation of an Accelerated Learning Pro- gram at a large two-year college, Queensborough Community College (QCC), located in Bayside, New York, and part of the City University of New York (CUNY), a large university system composed of two-year and four-year colleges. We explain how we used ALP best practices to design and facilitate such a program, knowing that the model has been successful elsewhere. In addition, we explain the unique characteristics of our program, which integrates English language learners (ELL) and native English speakers (NES) in our writing classrooms and also requires ALP students to pass a high-stakes writing exam to exit remediation and receive a let- ter grade in their first-year writing course. To explore both the effectiveness and uniqueness of our particular model, we examine student surveys and demographic data from students enrolled in the second semester of our program. In analyzing this data, we attempt to understand why and how this program works for students with different educational and linguistic backgrounds, in terms of pass rates and retention rates, and specifically how students’ perceptions of themselves as writers is impacted by this program. We demonstrate that ALP proves successful for both NES and English as a Second Language (ESL) students, even within an institution that requires a high-stakes exam as an exit from writing remediation.

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    In addition, we describe (through a preliminary analysis of survey responses) the effect that this program has on students’ sense of satisfaction in their writing course and their development of identities as college writers in comparison with survey responses of students enrolled in a developmental writing course designed only for ESL students. Our analysis shows that while students enrolled in the tra- ditional ESL courses gain a sense of satisfaction within their developmental courses over a semester, ALP students, a group that mixes ESL and NES students on our campus, lose that sense of satisfaction over the same period. This result may seem surprising considering that the ALP students ended up doing better in their courses than their non-ALP peers. However, we understand the ALP-student dissatisfaction as a reflection on the developmental component of the two ALP courses only, a course that the students may no longer consider necessary because by the end of the semester they may come to view themselves as college-ready. This data might suggest an argument in support of ALP that may be lost in analyses that focus solely on program efficiencies and outcomes: the ALP model, as opposed to a traditional developmental model, may more effectively position students institutionally and psychologically as college writers.

    While possessing some unique features, our ALP model is similar to the models found at over two hundred two-year and four-year colleges across the United States. As Peter Adams and others have described, writing program administrators (WPAs) have seen ALP as a successful way to mainstream students who have been identified as needing additional support in writing beyond a first-year composition course. WPAs argue that students in ALP courses benefit from smaller class sizes, increased contact with their instructors, an immersive experience in writing and reading, and a strong peer community (Adams et al.). During its existence, ALP has had widespread success, reducing the many exit points developmental students face, helping students succeed in credit-bearing writing classes, and lowering attrition along the way (Adams et al.; Hern). While there is limited scholarship on specific reasons for the effectiveness of ALP, the success of the model has been widely documented by Adams and others at CCBC, by researchers at Columbia Univer- sity’s Community College Research Center (CCRC), and by Katie Hern and her colleagues in the California Acceleration Project (Adams et al.; Hern; Cho et al.).

    Specifically, Adams et al. argue that ALP doubled the passing rate of basic writing students while halving their first-year writing course attrition rate. While Jenkins et al. do not see the same retention benefits for ALP students in their 2010 study for the CCRC, they do conclude that ALP students were more likely than their non-ALP counterparts to complete and pass the first-year composition course connected to their developmental writing class through ALP (ENGL 101), as well as a second semester of required writing (ENGL 102). In addition, they conclude that ALP students tend to attempt more college credits than their non-ALP coun- terparts and that ALP proves cost effective for students. In the CCRC’s follow-up study from 2012, Sung-Woo Cho et al. again conclude that ALP students are more successful in ENGL 101 and ENGL 102, although white and high-income students seem to benefit the most from ALP. Thus, at this point in ALP research, there is

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  • A n d e r s t , M a l o y , a n d S h a h a r / A s s e s s i n g t h e A c c e l e r a t e d L e a r n i n g P r o g r a m 13

    clear evidence that such models offer a variety of benefits over more traditional models of developmental writing at the community college level. At the same time, more analysis of program structure and pedagogy as well as student performance beyond first-year or second-year retention is essential to truly understanding the effectiveness of the ALP model. Furthermore, ALP research most often focuses on NES populations alone, while our model and our research includes ELLs, a growing population of college students who, we argue, would benefit from greater exposure to acceleration.

    ALP at Queensborough Community College

    Our adoption of ALP at QCC beginning in the spring of 2014 sought to replicate much of the success that WPAs and researchers have identified in previous models. We hoped to increase the numbers of students who made it from developmental courses into credit-bearing courses and to help them persist in their education at QCC and beyond. Largely adopting CCBC’s model, our ALP courses link two sections: one section of an ALP designated upper-level developmental writing or reading course (BE 112 or BE 122, re- spectively) with one section of English 101, the first of the first-year writing sequence at QCC, with both courses taught by the same instructor. In our model, the developmental course has fourteen students, and English 101 has twenty-four students. For English 101, ten “mainstream” or English 101–only students join our ALP students. For each of our ALP course pairs, the individual instructor who teaches both courses has the freedom to develop his or her own curriculum. While course themes or readings vary from instructor to instructor, the curriculum in all of the ALP course pairs on our campus includes overlapping elements between the two courses, such as themes, readings, or writing assignments. This encourages our ALP students to begin to see the links between the work they do in the developmental course and in the credit-bearing course.

    Our pilot semester of two ALP writing sections, while admittedly small, did replicate the success of ALP models in other institutions and proved more success- ful than non-ALP developmental courses at our institution. In our pilot semester, nineteen of twenty-seven ALP students (or 70%) passed our university’s high-stakes writing exam, the CUNY Assessment Test of Writing (CATW), and, thus, passed the developmental course. Of those nineteen students, seventeen (93%) earned passing grades in English 101. As a comparison, the many sections of BE 112 and BE 205, our campus’s upper-level developmental writing courses offered for native speakers of English (NES) and for English language learners (ELLs), respectively, together had an overall pass rate of 47% in the same semester. For our pilot semester, all of

    We hoped to increase the numbers of students who made it from developmental courses into credit-bearing courses and

    to help them persist in their education at QCC and beyond.

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