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CONTACT: Bruce Smith
Public Information Officer
(310) 434-4209
DATE: January 28, 2005


On the heels of winning national recognition, a special Santa Monica College program that dramatically improves the academic standing, course completion and persistence rates of students on academic probation has won a state award.

SMC’s Student Enhancement & Educational Research (SEER) Project received the 2004-05 California Community Colleges’ Board of Governors “Exemplary Program Award.” Last year, the project received the “Best Practice Award” from the National Council on Student Development, an affiliate of the American Association of Community Colleges.

The Board of Governors bases its selection on a program’s demonstrated effect on students in the areas of access, retention, completion or transfer, particularly for underrepresented groups; support for students who are deficient in basic skills; and promise for being replicated across the state.

The program was started in summer 2002 and has included nearly 2,000 students since it began. The program specifically targets students who are on probation – either because of poor grades or a low completion rate of attempted coursework. SMC has long been concerned that about one-third of SMC’s first-time college students end up on probation, making them at risk of dropping out of college.

After careful research, counselors devised a three-pronged approach to improve the academic achievement of these students: “re-orientation” sessions (the primary strategy), at least twice-a-semester visits with counselors, and English and math placement exams.

A yearlong study of probationary students completed in fall 2003 showed the program had a dramatic effect on their academic achievements. Findings included:

• Half the students who attended the re-orientation went off probation.
• The persistence rate – percentage of students who continued their studies the following semester – was 72 percent for those who had attended re-orientation, compared to 23 percent for students who did not.
• Students who completed the English and math assessment tests – regardless of placement level – attained a higher course completion rate, 62 percent, compared to those who opted not to take the test, 49 percent for English and 48 percent for math.

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