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Program provides academic reading and writing support alongside college credit course

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Nov 16, 2020

Having a firm grasp on academic level reading and writing in English is a requirement to graduate from college, but it doesn’t have to be a barrier to enrolling. At College of Lake County (CLC), the accelerated learning program (ALP) allows those who were previously required to take a pre-college English class to instead start earning college credit.

“Students who start in developmental education get bogged down, lose money and may not even get to college-level classes,” said Cathy Colton, English instructor and accelerated learning coordinator. “With English 100, English composition support, most students can do college composition at the same time.”

Piloted in 2011, as of the spring 2020 semester all CLC students who previously placed into the level below English 121 are now taking part in ALP. That means students now complete a sequence of courses in one semester rather than two, accelerating their progress towards a credential. What’s more, the program teaches good study habits and an understanding of what it takes to succeed in college.

“Surveys and faculty feedback over the years demonstrate the small group setting of the class helps students feel they belong,” says Colton. “Research shows a sense of belonging is really important for students to succeed. Developing close relationships with their peers and one-on-one attention from instructors fosters success.”

Sylvia Avah recently completed the ALP and couldn’t agree more with those findings. “Initially when I sat in the class, I was older than everybody, so I felt a little intimidated, but Colton was able to catch that early,” said Avah. “She talked to me and said ‘everybody is equal. Come to me with anything you want. I am prepared to help you.’” 

Avah, 45, first moved to the U.S. 11 years ago from Ghana, West Africa. With a background in administration, she ended up working in healthcare.

“After seven years, I wanted to pursue a degree in nursing and I needed extra help with English,” said Avah. “An academic counselor recommended I enroll in the ALP English 100 class to help with English 121.” 

She isn’t the only one who has been helped by this program. ALP began as a faculty initiative at the Community College of Baltimore County in 2007. In its first year, faculty documented more than 100 percent increase in their English 101 course pass rate, and the success doesn’t stop there.

“Early data indicate these students perform better in their subsequent classes,” said Colton. “In some cases, even better than their peers who didn’t take this co-requisite English 100 class.”

The Community College Research Center indicates early student progress, like completion of college-credit English within the first year, is associated with higher credential completion.  At CLC, this is one of many strategies being employed to better facilitate students’ achievement of their goals. ALP has since spread to more than 300 schools across the country. No one should feel they don’t have what it takes to be a college student. This program is just one more tool in CLC’s toolbox to be a student ready college.

“I’ve already recommended the class to my friends,” said Avah. “Where we come from, our understanding of English is different from what they teach here,” said Avah. “Go and see the counselor to see what they can offer you. Give yourself a chance.” 

About College of Lake County:

The College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. The College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.