College of the Sequoias
First Year Experience Summer Bridge Program
There are obstacles that are inherent to many first year students that the First Year Experience (FYE)
Program at the College of the Sequoias has worked diligently to address. By creating a community of
learners, offering support services such as counseling and peer mentoring, as well requiring students to
take the freshman seminar course in their first semester, the FYE program is breaking down the barriers
to a successful college career.
The College of the Sequoias is located in Visalia, California which is nestled at the base of the Sequoia
and Kings Canyon National Parks in Tulare County. With 23% of people living in poverty, Tulare County
has the highest poverty rate per capita in California (Title V Grant, 2009). Correspondingly, Tulare
County’s college-going rate for high school students to a four- year university dismally stands at 22%
and the COS placement test results reveal 90% of students place into a pre-collegiate math with 65%
placing into a pre-collegiate writing course (Title V Grant, 2009). With those statistics in mind, the FYE
staff carefully analyzed the success rate of the fall 2008 students that took the basic skills math course.
Upon review, there was a strong correlation between poor success in the course and a low placement
test cut score. This finding was used to determine which of the recently recruited FYE students for the
fall 2009 should be considered for the Summer Bridge Math program offered exclusively to the FYE
The assessment test places students into a variety of math levels. Students can place into a calculus
series, transfer math series, intermediate algebra, algebra or pre-algebra course depending on the test
they take and score they receive. There are a range of cut scores that constitute placement into a given
level, e.g. 1.0 - 1.7 represents placement into the pre-algebra course. There are also a number of
students who receive no placement in math because they test lower than the pre-algebra course and
until recently, lower than what the math department had to offer.
Forty out of the 300 fall 2009 FYE students were recognized as either having no placement or they
received the lowest or next to the lowest cut score in the basic skills math course. Likewise, these
students were also enrolled into one of the five framework learning communities which combined the
pre-algebra course with basic skills English and the freshman seminar course. These 40 students were
solicited to participate in the Summer Bridge Program with an incentive of receiving a free math book
for the fall, originally priced at $80. Twenty-six students agreed to participate and at the end of the
week long session, they were given their textbook for the math. Out of the 26 students, 14 were female,
12 male and 23 were Hispanic.
The program consisted of four one-hour block sessions each day beginning at 8am and ending with a
free lunch at noon. The first two days offered only workshops related to student service resources such
as financial aid, campus tour, disability resource and health center offerings and how to access student
email and utilize our course management system, i.e. banner web. The last three days contained study
skills strategy workshops in the morning and the math component was the last three hours of the day.
The math component was taught by a full time math instructor. He covered the first chapter of their text
as well as how to log on and use the “My Math Lab” program which is a computer program utilized by
most of our pre-algebra instructors. On the last day, a motivational speaker named James Parks spoke to
the students about the importance of a higher education and breaking down barriers in life.
Students were asked to complete a pre and post survey reflecting on questions such as, how
comfortable do they feel about starting college, how prepared do they feel regarding math and overall,
how helpful was the Summer Bridge Program. The post survey revealed that students grew in
confidence and preparedness for the Fall semester and all of them agreed that the Summer Bridge
Program was helpful and informative. At the close of the Fall 2009 semester, we examined the success
of the 26 Bridge students in their math course as well as their re-enrollment in the Spring semester. 50%
of the students passed their math 360 class and 25 out of the 26 re-enrolled in the Spring semester. The
overall college success rate in the math 360 course for the Fall 2009 was 47% and the re-enrollment rate
of first-time students was 71%.
The Summer Bridge Math Program proved slight success over the college average and there are things
we plan to modify for the summer 2010 program. The most important modification we would like to
make is to the math component. Instead of reviewing the first chapter of their text for the course, we
would instead like to provide basic arithmetic remediation. Since the math department will offer a new
arithmetic course in the Fall 2010, another discussion to be had is whether or not we should incorporate
placement into arithmetic rather than giving students no placement and the option of taking basic
arithmetic or going directly into a pre-algebra course. Mandating arithmetic placement may be one way
to bring the Summer Bridge Program success rate to scale and we may consider changing the lowest cut
scores for math 360 into placement into arithmetic. Another strong component of the Summer Bridge
Program was the orientation to the college services which contributed to the ease of transition to the
college. The college orientation model is currently being reviewed and modified to incorporate more of
the workshop model like the one offered through Summer Bridge.