Discussion centers on dual enrollment, preparing high school students for college

A unique and possibly historic event took place Thursday evening in the Cougar Room at Taft College.
The boards of trustees of both the West Kern Community College District and Taft Union High School met in a joint session. It might not be the first time the two boards have met in a joint session in the more than 91 years that Taft College has been in existence. But at the least it has been a long time since a similar event has been held.
The meeting was informational, with no items on the agenda for a vote. Subject matters were: dual (TUHS and TC) enrollment, Common Core, the Student Success Act, an update on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Grant activities and the Technology Initiative at TUHS.
“I thought it was really a wonderful opportunity to come together on items we have a common interest in to benefit the students,” Dr. Dena Maloney, college superintendent/president, said of the joint meeting.
Dual enrollment
“We have had dual enrollment for five years,” said Darcy Bogle, the college’s vice president of Student Services. “One hundred and thirty-six students have participated for one or more semesters … (with) 31 classes offered.”
The courses offered to the high school students include English 1500 and 1600 (a degree requirement), Introduction to Psychology, Introduction to Sociology and since the fall 2011 semester, biology fundamentals, Bogle said.
“Dual enrollment is not a new idea,” said Mark Williams, the college’s vice president of Instruction, who assisted Bogle with the report. “We should not let institution boundaries get in the way of student success. How can we let students further their college education?
“There are courses that need to be added. We’re not doing it to be trendy. (The program) needs college level advisers.”
TC Board member Michael Long asked if the Taft program was similar to offerings through other community colleges, such as Santa Barbara CC.
In the SBCC district, which has a much larger enrollment and serves more area high schools, the schools request that certain classes be offered, Bogle said.
“Get the faculty of both (the college and high school) together (to offer) what will be beneficial to help the students to get college credit,” Maloney said.
TUHS Superintendent Blanca Cavazos said, “We are very much interested in any joint effort.”
Common Core and Technology Initiative
Cavazos gave the presentations on Common Core and the Technology Initiative at Taft High.
“Common Core has moved from the answer (to an exam question) to how the process works,” she said. “Explain why and how it works.
“Taft College will get students who are better prepared, deep thinkers; a narrow but deeper set of standards.
“We are preparing students for careers that don’t exist yet … (so) they can succeed in those jobs.”
Since she came to the TUHS District a year ago, she and Maloney have been working on putting more technology into the students’ hands, Cavazos said.
“It has taken longer than we thought, but we are putting the pieces in place,” she said. “We want to put an iPad in each teacher’s hands. We want to determine which is the best device for students to have in each class.”
A second part of that project is for the students to have wi-fi access so that they can use the items at home, she said. Many homes in the area do not have wi-fi access, which impacts full use of electronic devices and prevents taking advantage of online classes, the high school and college leaders said.
“I am very thankful for this joint effort (between the high school and college),” Cavazos said. “Not a week goes by that we are not talking to each other.”
The college’s STEM program involves reaching out to area schools with the hope of spurring students’ interest in a career in science, technology, engineering or math, said Rachel Taylor, STEM Outreach coordinator.
There are a number of outreach programs or activities already underway of planned, Taylor said. They include the after-school Young Innovators Clubs for high school and junior high school students; the STEM Outreach trailer that can be taken to campuses around the county; and the planned Summer STEM Program, to allow students to keep-up with science education while school is out, and the Math Jam and the Mad Science Camp, both also in the works for this summer, she said.
During the period of March 10-14, Pi Week was held at the college. Friday, March 14, or 3-14, saluted Pi’s 3.14, a mathematical constant, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.
Student Success Act
“The Student Success Act (of 2012) approved eight focus areas,” Bogle said. The 2013-14 school year is a district/college-level planning year to prepare for 2014-15 when the act is implemented, she said.
In her presentation she looked on two of the eight focus areas: increasing college and career readiness, and the career pathways exploration advisor.
Under the program high school students can pass an assessment and not have to take a college placement test for English and/or math, Bogle said.
The college also has a career advisor to help guide the new students.
“It strengthens support for incoming (college) students,” she said.