A Fast-Track to Transfer
Imagine skipping a year of pre-college English, because you made it through a two-week rigorous boot camp called “English Academy.” It sounds too good to be true, except that 213 Santa Monica College (SMC) students—a whopping 92 percent of the participants—did just that. This was the second time the Academy was held. Of the 164 students in the inaugural English Academy, held in August 2015, 150—or 91 percent—passed directly into English 1.
The Academy is an alternative to up to two semesters’ worth of fundamental college writing instruction in a two-week boot camp for first-year students who otherwise might have to enroll in at least one pre-college level class before progressing to transfer-level English 1, the research-oriented reading and writing course (it also satisfies the English requirement for an Associate degree).
The prerequisites that many students—especially those coming from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds—have to take to in order to be transfer-ready have proven to be a roadblock to their success. The United States has the highest college dropout rates in the industrialized world, and studies have shown that too many prerequisites contribute to the problem.
The SMC English department found this mirrored in the numbers of underrepresented students making it into English 1, or else, took English 1 and did not succeed. The Academy would, they hoped, remove some obstacles and move students faster towards transfer or a career.
How do English Academy students who are placed into English 1 then fare? (Students submit a final research paper for assessment.). Last fall, the first cohort succeeded in English 1 at a rate of 83 percent. By comparison, out of those enrolled in the course but not through the Academy, 69 percent succeeded.
But there’s more. The English Academy—which operates as a part of SMC’s First Year Experience program, a student success program for first year students—offers students a complete support network, points them to other tools they will need.
English Academy graduate Sophia Shewfelt said that what she enjoyed most about the Academy was “one-on-one support from [my] professor and writing assistant—and classmates.” Many of the peer writing assistants who assisted the 15 instructors were alumni from last year’s first-ever Academy.
SMC Counselor Jose Hernandez said that the program’s biggest impact definitely is “the connection to the professors, who keep their doors open to new students. That’s huge.” SMC English Professor Susan Caggiano added that a lot of students she taught in English Academy would come to her office hours, instead of going to their instructor. “After spending 40 odd hours in two weeks with an instructor, that kind of connection just happens.”
Speaking of the Academy’s success, Susan Caggiano said: “I was excited by the outcome but I was not totally surprised, I understand what our students are capable of. If you provide them with an environment that tells them they have a chance, they’ll take that chance.”
SMC’s First Year Experience also has other “bridge programs” for first-time students such as Summer Bridge and College Day. For more information, visit www.smc.edu/fye to find out how you—or a loved one—can avail of SMC’s success and support network for new students.
“I feel like the most valuable thing English Academy has done for a lot of them is being able to accept where they are coming from and who they are… to understand that their voice is important.”
– Jose Hernandez, SMC Counselor