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Monday, June 24, 2019

Knowledge is Power

WCC Developmental Classes Prepare Students for Success

It’s not unusual to find students in WCC classrooms who’ll admit they hadn’t planned on going to college at all.

Perhaps at one time they’d been told they “weren’t college material.” Perhaps they were glad to leave formal education behind after high school. Perhaps they were one of the lucky few who found a good job without college training and never looked back.

But sometimes plans change. And that’s where WCC comes in.

It might take a layoff, a dead-end job, or the gradual realization that most good jobs require some college—whether it’s a short-term certificate, an associate degree, or a four-year degree.

Better Pay, More Security

According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau survey, workers with a high school degree make a median of $27,448 a year, while workers with some college or an associate degree bring home $33,838 and those with a bachelor’s degree earn a median of $47,853. And according to the American Diploma Project, 80 percent of all job openings now require at least some college education.

But sometimes preparing for a career requires students to first step back and prepare for success in college.

“Being ready for a career means that a high school graduate has the English and mathematics knowledge and skills needed to qualify for and succeed in the postsecondary job training and/or education necessary for their chosen career,” says a report by ADP.

College Ready

When students enroll at WCC, they begin with a placement test to evaluate their reading, writing, and math skills. This test, called COMPASS, determines the level at which students begin their college education. For about 15 percent of WCC students, pre-college-level developmental classes in reading, writing, or math are required before they can jump into a college curriculum.

Some of these students may have been out of the classroom for years—even decades. Others simply didn’t take the college-prep classes in high school that would prepare them for college-level learning.

Even students who already planned to go to college may discover they’re underprepared. Among high school students nationwide who took the 2009 ACT college admissions test, 33 percent needed more preparation for college-level writing, 47 percent needed more preparation for college-level reading, and 58 percent needed more preparation for college-level algebra.

Nationwide, about 53 percent of entering college students will take at least one developmental class in reading, writing, or math. While some four-year colleges offer developmental classes, the nation’s community colleges provide the majority of them.


With approximately 2,000 to 3,000 students enrolled in at least one developmental class during the fall and winter semesters, WCC takes its commitment to developmental education seriously. All in all, WCC offers nearly 200 sections of developmental reading, writing, and math classes per semester.

About two years ago a group of WCC instructors formed the Developmental Task Force to compare notes, develop strategies, and improve success rates for these important classes.

“We discovered that we shared many of the same students, and that our students shared many of the same challenges,” said developmental math instructor Kris Chatas, one of the members of the group.

“Many of the developmental-level instructors concentrate on teaching only these classes,” said Julie Kissel, a developmental writing instructor who has devoted her career to teaching basic writing.

“It’s gratifying to see students really get it, and from there, gain the confidence to keep going toward their goals.”

Learn more about how WCC’s developmental classes in English, mathematics, and reading prepare students for college success in the Fall 2010 Career Focus magazine.

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