I am a basic skills community college math instructor here in Los Angeles. This Spring is a very exciting time for our college. There are several campus initiatives taking place. Among them is the implementation of Assembly Bill 86, the Adult Education Consortium Program http://ab86.cccco.edu which will take effect July 1 2015. There are 5 major areas AB 86 seeks to improve:

Elementary and Basic Skills (Math & English)

Classes for Immigrants (ELLs)

Programs for Adults with Disabilities

Short term CTE programs

Programs for Apprentices

I’m meeting with the College President’s task force on Adult Education in 2 weeks and as you can imagine, at this point in the planning process there is a tremendous amount of work that must get done so that we can begin to address the goals of AB 86 by July 1st.

I plan to bring the pedagogy aspect to the table as one of the goals. I want to make sure the president considers professor accountability - because we can’t have classes for immigrants with professors who lack strategies for learning - the program will be ineffective in my opinion - several programs such as "First Year Completion" go negatively criticized by their respective students because “the professor was unhelpful.”

I’m asking that you help me add professional points to improve my conversation with the committee in terms of teaching basic skill Math to English Language Learners and offering classes for immigrants by putting effective instructors, hold all instructors to mandatory professional development for best strategies for ELLs, SIOP models, cyclic instruction, etc etc. Appreciate the help in advance.

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    $\begingroup$ It is really unclear what you are asking. Is it about Math Ed research about teaching students, professor accountability,...? $\endgroup$
    – Chris C
    Mar 2, 2015 at 3:16

2 Answers 2


Mandatory professional development is not what makes a good teacher. And if there was the same sort of criticism across multiple teachers, it may be the program and not the teacher that's the problem.

One of the most effective ways to change remedial programs is to make them shorter. Check out the information from the California Acceleration Project.


Re. teaching basic skill Math to English Language Learners

  1. Teaching basic skills is a losing proposition because they can only be memorized "Voodoo" style. This, unless there is an immediate demand for specific skills. For instance, if your students are carpenters to be, then one skill they will need is, for instance, how to use a carpenter square.
  2. The "pedagogy aspect", namely how one drills the stuff into the students'mind is not the important one because the retention is extremely limited in any case. What "developmental" students need is mainly to learn how to extract information from a text, maybe specifications, owner manual, building code, whatever.
  3. The best way to achieve this is to have the math course linked with a developmental read-write English course in which the text used in the math course is used as reading text in the English course.
  4. Developmental students also need to learn how and on what basis to decide that some statement is true. For instance, there is a lot of stuff out there on the web that is false, some of it to the point of being dangerous. So, students mostly need to get used to the notion of "making a case" somewhat like in a court of law. This means get used to "demanding" that a case to be made, develop an ability to decide on the merits of a case and, at the same, get used to the idea of not asserting anything for which one is not prepared to make a case.
  5. Finally, one should always keep in mind Hestenes'dictum that "[That c]ourse content is taken [by many] as given [...] ignores the possibility of improving pedagogy by reconstructing course content."
  6. Thus, a VERY TALL ORDER. I wish you good luck because College Presidents are never interested in that sort of things.

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