Core Principle 5
Align courses with programs of study.
In the past, many introductory math and English courses have included content that was not well-aligned with a student’s intended academic direction. Consequently, many students were tripped up in their pursuit of a credential while studying content that was not directly aligned with their goals.
Today, colleges are increasingly focusing the academic content of remedial and gateway mathematics and English courses and course sequences on the critical foundational skills required for specific academic and career programs.
There is also growing consensus among the professional associations of mathematicians that intermediate algebra and college algebra should not be the default requirement for programs that do not depend on their content. Students pursuing a program that does not require calculus would likely be better served by taking a rigorous mathematics course more aligned with their intended major. Gateway courses in statistics, mathematical modeling or quantitative reasoning, rather than college algebra, may be more appropriate for a large percentage of students who are not on a calculus path.
Many students who are pursuing majors that do require calculus, such as engineering, are often not ready for the demands of this challenging course. Colleges and universities are working to provide these students with a calculus-preparatory course or course sequence that enables them to develop the algebraic proficiency and conceptual knowledge of algebra and geometry that they will need for success. Traditional college algebra courses typically do not meet this need.
In addition, courses such as Anatomy and Physiology, Accounting 101 and Basic Drafting—not just college-level math and English—can act as gateway courses and build foundational reading, writing and quantitative reasoning skills as students engage with motivating and contextualized college-level content. Practices analogous to those that increase success in college-level math and English should be deployed in these courses as well.
Finally, the modernization of courses and course sequences (and associated embedded supports) needs to be linked to strengthened system policies that ensure the transferability of credits to their receiving institutions and their applicability to students’ intended programs of study. This policy shift is essential, given the large number of students who transfer among institutions.Next Principle
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