One Teacher's Wake Up Call
the end of Fall 2005, I was devastated to realize that only 55% of
students passed my English classes, while the rest withdrew or received
I shouldn't have been surprised. I was teaching three sections of
English 102, a developmental course that helps under-prepared students
get ready for college-level English. Pre-college English classes have
notoriously low pass rates in community colleges, and at Chabot College,
a 55% pass rate was pretty typical. And yet, I had expected more
students to pass.
had good reason to. Among the students who withdrew or received No
Credit, 51% had received at least one grade of C or higher. I expected
them to pass the class because they had shown me, on tests and essays,
that they could do the kinds of reading, reasoning, and writing I was
asking them to do.
problem was not ability, but sustainability. They could do the work,
but they did not sustain the focus, motivation, and effort to pass the
I've been trying to understand why ever since.
have conducted in-depth interviews, reviewed transcripts, and studied
students' self-reflection essays. I have shared data on the
sustainability gap with my colleagues, and with students in subsequent
English classes, and asked them to help me interpret it.
site will present the interrelated and overlapping themes that have
emerged to explain the gap between students' ability and sustainability,
and what teachers might do to close that gap.
Katie Hern, Ed.D.
Chabot College, Hayward CA
This research project was made possible by a grant from the William and
Flora Hewlett Foundation, in conjunction with the Carnegie Foundation
for the Advancement of Teaching.