Surprised by data showing that thousands of high school students are just one or two courses shy of meeting state university admissions requirements, the University of California has launched a summer program to help students make up the courses they’re missing and put them on a solid footing for college.
“It’s kind of frustrating they get so close,” said Dante Noto, the UC official who is overseeing the new program, called SummerUp. “I’ve talked to a lot of these kids (in SummerUp), and they’re thrilled to realize that UC and (California State University) are in their vision. They were not thinking they were necessarily going to get there.”
A university analysis shows just how close many students come. Researchers reviewed the transcripts of 19,414 juniors at 40 high schools who were working to complete the course sequence – called A-G – required to be eligible for admission to California State University or University of California campuses.
The review showed that a quarter of students were missing two courses required to meet minimum requirements to be eligible for admission to California State University, while 16 percent were missing just one course. The CSU requirements closely mirror those required for UC.
Frequently, that one course is Algebra II, said Noto, the director of resource development for UC’s education partnerships division.
In many cases, students fail the class, Noto said, or take the first semester but never finish the second semester.
SummerUp aims to fill that Algebra II gap. The six-week program allows incoming seniors to complete the algebra requirement, so they can enter the senior year and focus on other coursework.
The program also offers a second chance to students who graduated without the required algebra proficiency. Newly enrolled community college students get a full slate of transferable math coursework through SummerUp, allowing students who would otherwise end up in remedial classes to enter directly into credit-bearing, college-level math courses.
SummerUp was piloted this summer at seven UC campuses in partnership with area high schools and community colleges. The pilot, offered as part of UC’s Early Academic Outreach Program for underserved students, enrolled about 350 students – all of whom are low-income or the first in their families to attend college.
“That only adds to the poignancy of how hard they’ve worked to achieve the A-G requirements, only to fall short,” Noto said.
SummerUp uses a mix of classroom and online instruction and one-on-one support from teachers and tutors to bring students up to speed. Many of the programs are offered on UC campuses, helping introduce students to college life, with instruction from college professors and tutoring from college students.
“I took this to get ahead,” said 18-year-old Kaitlin Maxwell of Atwater, who will start a nursing program at Merced College in the fall. “My major is very competitive, so I need any help I can get to get ahead.”
Maxwell said she completed the A-G coursework at Atwater High School, including Algebra II in her junior year, but didn’t take any math courses – not her strongest subject – during her senior year. As a result, she didn’t score well on the math portion of her college placement exam.
Without the SummerUp course she took at UC Merced, she would have spent her freshman year in remedial math. Instead, she will enroll directly into a statistics class.
Maxwell said the extra help she received in the program gave her a better understanding of the subject and helped prepare her for what she’ll face in college.
For other students, the program offers a vital opportunity to stay on track.
At the Oakland Unified School District, which is participating in the pilot program, summer school can’t serve all the students who need to make up credits after failing a class. SummerUp helps fill that gap while also introducing students to college life.
“We take any chance we can get for students to make up credits and be eligible” for college, said Diana Kampa, coordinator of college readiness at the Oakland Unified School District, which sent 14 students to SummerUp through a partnership with UC Berkeley. The UC Berkeley program served a total of 38 students in two classes, with other students coming from high schools in Berkeley and Richmond.
“The opportunity to actually go to (class) at a Cal building and to be in that space is something that can be valuable for students,” Kampa said. “It ups the ante for them and they can see, ‘This is what it will be like for me when I go to college.’”
UC officials hope to expand the program in future years, potentially adding courses in English language arts – another area in which students often come up short – to the roster, Noto said.
Program results will also be studied by the Center for Research on Educational Equity, Assessment and Teaching Excellence, or CREATE, at UC San Diego. Among the research questions the center will study is the effectiveness of SummerUp’s blended learning model, which combines face-to-face instruction with online learning.
The research could also provide clues about why so many students are falling short and how the university can better help them complete the required coursework and graduate high school prepared to succeed in college, Noto said.
“Clearly there are some students who are way, way far off and not going to make it,” he said. “But there are significant numbers of others who with just a little push and a little support can cross the bridge. I think it’s really exciting and that’s why we started this program, so we can help those kids.”