By CHELO GRUBB
Nearly 1,800 students have tested into Pima Community College’s remedial education program, the Prep Academy, since it started in April.
Just 808 students — about 47 percent — who tested into the program have enrolled. A total of 59 students have completed and tested out of the program and 552 are currently actively enrolled.
When the Prep Academy plan was first proposed, the community expressed concern that students who tested in — and were therefore prevented from taking other Pima courses until they completed the program — would be discouraged and turn away from the school.
“Students say they would have run away and never come back after the testing, but we reeled them in,” said Brenda Keane, the Prep Academy program manager.
College advisers meet with students immediately after they take assessments and talk to them about the program.
When she first started working with the program, Keane said the number of students who dropped out surprised her. Now, if a student isn’t heard from for two weeks, a Prep Academy instructor contacts them and encourages them to start the program.
“We take a bad day and turn it into a regular day, ” Keane said about explaining the program to students who feel discouraged with their test scores.
Keane said most students know their weaknesses, and have anxiety about them when going into assessments. However, she added, the individualized study plan associated with the program helps students feel more comfortable.
“It’s all about the students. They just morph into these very confident people,” Keane said. “It’s changed how they view their abilities. They’re doing things they never would have dreamed of.”
The program is also rewarding for the staff, Keane said, noting instructors are encouraged when an academy student does well.
“I get goose bumps every day,” Keane said. “It’s a charge; it’s a real charge. They make my day every day.”
Students can sign up to complete the program in four weeks, 10 weeks, or six months. If they finish the program and test into college-level courses early, they are able to go back and use the facilities until their allotted time has expired.
Students can work on campus or online. However, Keane said, students who come to campus tend to have more success with the program.
According to PCC, about one-fourth of Pima applicants between mid-March and early August initially tested into the Prep Academy.
However, half of those students retook their assessments and tested out of the program.
Students may also bring in AIMS test scores to prove their proficiency. The state assessment measures student competency in reading, arithmetic and science. Scores must be from within three years of the student’s high school graduation or within three years of applying to Pima.
With the fall semester still relatively fresh, Keane said it’s difficult to say what changes will be made to the program in the future.
“It’s hard to see what needs to be improved,” Keane said. “We are actively looking for ways to improve, even though we are still in the incubator phase.”
While there may be changes ahead for the program, Keane thinks it’s going well overall.
“There’s so much joy going around,” Keane said. “It’s a shame not everybody can see that.”