White Bear Lake, Minn. (May 2, 2013) — Hoping to increase student success in college composition classes, Century College has launched an innovative program called “Express English.”
Express English classes taught by Century College professors Cullen Bailey Burns and Carl Gerriets this semester look like normal English composition classes. But there’s an interesting twist.
When the regular comp class is over, about half of the students stay together for a second session with their professors. This second session is a lower-level English class, a so-called “developmental” class that gives the students additional time and more guidance to think more deeply and work harder to improve their writing assignments.
What is going on here? Why would students take an upper-level class at the same time as a lower-level class?
Burns and Gerriets explain that having students take these two courses together not only saves the student time, but it also increases the students’ chances of completing both courses successfully. Based on the Accelerated Learning Program of the Community College at Baltimore County, Express English has been adapted at over 50 colleges around the country. Century is the first college in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system to try it out.
The point of the program is to improve student success in college composition courses by giving students the additional help they need, when they need it. The goal is to have at least 70 percent of the students successfully complete both English 0090 and English 1021.
The idea of trying Express English at Century was first brought up by Prof. Burns, who learned about it while on sabbatical last year. Her colleagues in the English Department and Century administrators who were looking for ways to increase student success were almost immediately enthusiastic. The first classes taught by Burns and Gerriets were planned in a relative whirlwind and started this semester.
“Like most colleges, we have a lot of room for improvement in the area of students successfully completing college composition classes,” said Burns. “We believe Express English will help.”
Students in both Burns’ and Gerriets’ classes are enthusiastic.
“I was really fortunate to get into Express English,” said Randy Lallas of Vadnais Heights, 26, a 2004 graduate of Mounds View High School and a U.S. Army veteran. “To go from English 1021 (the harder class) directly into English 0090 is great. It gives you so much more time with the teacher. Everything we do in the English 90 class helps us in the English 1021 class. We are keeping up, if not surpassing, the regular students in English 1021.”
Instead of having a stigma about having the lower-level English class, Lallas said the regular upper-level students are almost envious of the additional help that the Express English students receive. “It’s all about the extra time and the extra help,” he said.
Next spring, Century will offer several more Express English classes taught by four additional professors.