Boot camp for the academic transition? Tennessee finds success with bridge program

As we have written

By 2020, 70 percent of Washington jobs will require postsecondary education or training. Preparing our students for these opportunities requires high-quality education at every level.

Often, high school graduation does not guarantee students have the knowledge and skills required to succeed in their next educational experiences. We recently reported on a study finding that

…78% of college faculty and 62% of employers believe that public high schools are not doing enough to prepare students for the expectations they will face in college and the working world.

Last fall, in our research report, we said,

But the challenge doesn’t end with high school graduation. Of students who graduated from public high school in 2009-10 and enrolled in community and technical college in 2010-11, 57 percent enrolled in at least one pre-college (developmental or remedial) course — most often in math. These disappointing numbers must be foremost in policymakers’ minds as they consider important questions of education policy and funding.

So we were interested in an “academic boot camp” used in Tennessee to ease the transition from high school to college. 

Almost every Tennessee Promise student who participated in a three-week “academic boot camp” meant to prepare them for college work saw their test scores improve, according to the official who oversaw the program.

Organizers encouraged students with low ACT scores to participate in the voluntary Tennessee Promise Summer Bridge Program. Students met at each of the state’s 13 community colleges for intensive math and English instruction meant to help them avoid remedial work this fall.

About 93 percent of the 554 students who completed the bridge program by the beginning of the month boosted their scores, while about half of them tested out of remediation in one or more subjects, according to Krissy DeAlejandro, executive director of tnAchieves, the nonprofit that partnered with the state to run the program.

More on the program in the Washington Times.  Here’s more about Tennessee Achieves. The Tennessean reports, 

Reams of research show that first generation college students, Tennessee Promise’s target population, are the most likely to drop out early, stymied by unfamiliar college terrain. Many of them aren’t prepared for the academic rigor of higher education. And those who are face culture shock on campus…

DeAlejandro and her staff designed the Tennessee Promise Summer Bridge Program to anticipate the students’ challenges. During what she called an “academic boot camp,” students in the Bridge Program will receive intensive training in college-level mathematics and English. They also will meet with their campus leaders and advisers, laying the groundwork for the first day of the fall semester in August.

Relieving the need for remediation and enhancing the chances for student success is a win-win. The boot camp model may be an idea worth investigating.