President Barack Obama praised Cleveland State Community College today during a speech at the University of Texas in Austin.
Officials at the local community college said they were shocked and elated at being mentioned.
"I need to get my head out of the clouds and my feet back on the ground," said Cleveland State President Carl Hite. "We have a program that has had a significant impact on changing failures in math.
"This is something that all community colleges need to be doing. It's not something that we think will work. It's something we know will work."
The president highlighted the school's remedial math program, developed by the community college in 2007, as a proven model to help students succeed in remedial classes and get through to graduation.
"There are community colleges out there like Tennessee's Cleveland State Community College that are redesigning math courses, boosting not only student achievement but also graduation rates," President Obama said in his speech. "We ought to make a significant investment to help other states pick up on some of these models."
Officials said the math revamp, which replaces lecture-style math courses with computer math labs, dramatically has improved student success in developmental courses. The number of students passing developmental math increased 29 percent in the last three years, and the number of students exiting the remedial program increased by 32 percent, records show.
The program also has saved the school $50,000 a year by trimming back on adjunct instructors used to teach math.
The school's program has been recognized nationally with a Bellwether Award in 2009 for innovative practices in academic affairs. It is being duplicated at Chattanooga State Community College.
The National Center for Academic Transformation, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is planning to announce 30 awards of $40,000 each to replicate the Cleveland State program at other community colleges.
"The hard work at Cleveland State has resulted in an exemplary program. To get recognition from the president is pretty high," Hite said. "We are glad Cleveland State could get this recognition, and we want to spread this to the 1,300 community colleges that face this same problem."
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