SAILS math program achieving higher marks

State of TN Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) - Governor’s budget - $46,850, Niswonger Foundation - $8,055

A cooperative learning program piloted at Northeast State Community College enjoyed promising results last fall for area high school seniors preparing to enroll in college.

The Bridge Math Course and Project SAILS (Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support) Math identifies students lacking college-level math skills while still in high school. SAILS enrolled more than 500 students at 14 high schools in the College’s five-county service area. 

The program has been really exciting, the students have been very receptive and the high schools have been excited to offer this opportunity to high school seniors, said Nancy Forrester, SAILS program coordinator and former dean of Mathematics at Northeast State.

Bridge Math and SAILS Math courses were implemented at 14 high schools in College’s five-county service area during the 2013 fall semester. The courses are competency-based, mastery-based and lab-based. Of those SAILS participants, 29 percent completed all five math competencies and 78 percent completed at least 3 competencies during the fall semester. Forrester visited the high schools every week during the fall semester to monitor student progress.

The students have to do the work for every math competency they need, said Forrester. When they do the work, they discover that they can do the math.

High school students who take the ACT college entrance exam during their junior year and score below 19 on math are required to take the Bridge Math Course during their senior year. The SAILS Program permits these students to take Learning Support math while enrolled in Bridge to prepare them for college-level math courses.  Students must complete five math competencies established in Bridge and SAILS to take college-level math courses such as Probability and Statistics. They earn high school credit and complete pre-requisites for college-level work.

Previously, students who enrolled at Northeast State with sub-19 ACT math scores typically needed two semesters to complete Learning Support math requirements. The Bridge and SAILS programs aim to shorten or eliminate that obstacle for high school students who complete the math competencies during their senior year.

There’s much more one-on-one time between students and teachers because the computer program fulfills most of the lecture content, said Forrester. Having high school teachers who are dedicated to Bridge and SAILS methods has been the difference maker.

Before Bridge and SAILS were introduced, students were required to enroll in and pass learning support math courses before taking college-level math. Learning support courses usually took two semesters and delayed a student’s ability to move through his or her program of study.

Instead of additional classes and semesters, first-year college students can enroll in classes needed for their majors. That means fewer semesters, money saved by taking fewer semesters, and a faster path to graduation.

SAILS participants use the Student Organizer created by the Northeast State Mathematics division faculty two years ago. The organizer tracks progress of each math competency. Students can continue working toward completing all five competencies during the spring final high school year.

The high school teachers have been wonderful to work with, said Malissa Trent, dean of the Mathematics division at Northeast State. The administrators and counselors at the schools have also been very supportive. The program would not be as successful without their support of students and the program.

The SAILS program was funded through the Northeast State Foundation, College Access Programs, the Niswonger Foundation, and the state via Gov. Bill Haslam. The SAILS program was brought under the umbrella of the Governor’s Drive to 55 campaign to raise the percentage of college graduates among Tennessee residents.
The Northeast State Foundation and the Niswonger Foundation have really stepped up to make this happen, Trent said.
Northeast State piloted the program with three other Tennessee Community Colleges in fall 2012. Forrester said once the governor’s office learned of their SAILS program they immediately wanted to pilot it around the state.

We are going to offer these options to the high school students, we want to be sure the program operates the way it is designed, she said.

Funded by a grant through the Tennessee Higher Education Commission as part of Gov. Haslam’s Online Innovation Budget, twelve colleges in the Tennessee Community College System partnered with more than 120 high schools to offer the SAILS Math last fall. The competencies earned through SAILS are recognized by all two-year and four-year institutions in the Tennessee Board of Regents system.

They are learning math competencies early thanks to their teachers and the program, said Trent. That is turning out college-ready students who have a better chance of obtaining a degree.