LONG BEACH, Calif. — A veteran university administrator, Dr. Charles B. Reed has seen his fair share of controversy during a career that includes 13 years as chancellor of the Florida State University system.
Since joining the California State University system as chancellor in 1997, Reed already has faced numerous faculty protests over labor, academic freedom and curriculum issues.
While disputes with faculty groups have given Reed some measure of notoriety, it appears that the hard-charging former college football player will be long remembered for how he handles remediation reform.
Given the task of reducing remedial education in the California State system upon taking the chancellor’s job, Reed lobbied for state assistance to establish an outreach program to high schools sending high percentages of students needing remedial studies to California State campuses.
The resulting initiative, known as the Collaborative Academic Preparation Initiative, fits into Reed’s overall goal of improving California public schools, a task he has pledged as a major priority of his chancellorship.
“If the public schools get better, that’s the only way [remediation reform] will succeed,” Reed says.
Dr. Alison Warriner, coordinator of composition at California State University-Hayward, says she was highly skeptical when the board adopted Executive Order 665, the remediation reform policy, in 1996.
“When the Executive Order came down, we had to do a lot of soul-searching on how to implement it. I didn’t see any support for working with the high schools. We weren’t sure how to do it,” Warriner says.
Warriner’s skepticism faded in 1999 after $9 million was allocated to fund the outreach efforts. An award of $5 million went toward establishing faculty alliances, and $4 million was appropriated for learning assistance programs.
“That’s what made the difference,” Warriner says.
The funding allowed Warriner and her colleagues around the state to set up workshops for hundreds of high school math and English faculty members. College student tutors began working with high school students, and Cal State faculty members instructed high school teachers on aligning their curriculum to better prepare high schoolers for college-level work. Students also are able to participate in diagnostic tests in math and English to gauge where they need help before taking the actual placement tests.
To emphasize the importance of early preparation for college, Cal State officials have had 180,000 posters, describing college requirements in both English and Spanish, printed and sent to all middle and high schools in California.
“The credit has to go to the California public schools for focusing more on our standards,” Reed says.
Warriner says Hayward faculty members worked directly with teachers at five inner-city high schools in the Oakland area. She discovered that the English teachers focused very little on writing and rhetorical skills, opting instead to focus on teaching a literature-based curriculum.
“We were all surprised when we started talking to each other,” Warriner says of the faculty meetings in English.
Sid Walton, an English and drama teacher at predominantly Black Oakland Tech High School in Oakland, says he welcomed the perspective of Hayward faculty because he’s pushed his school in the past to teach more writing skills and less literature.
“The English curriculum is dealing with literature and really does not prepare students to do college-level writing,” he says.
Warriner says the workshops are pushing high school teachers to focus on writing and rhetorical skills. “This will end up changing the curriculum,” she says.
The effort includes nearly 150 high schools in its inaugural year. For Reed, it marks an opportunity to redefine the relationship between the California State system and California public schools.
“It’s a fundamental change,” says Reed.
Though California State schools already educate 60 percent of public school teachers in the state, the new program is intended to inform prospective students about the university system’s requirements and to implement curriculum changes where necessary to increase math and English proficiency.
The initiative targets several poor, urban high schools in California, many of which have majority Black and Latino student populations.
At some campuses, college students have gone into high schools to tutor prospective students.
Dr. Mario Rivas, associate dean of undergraduate studies at San Francisco State University, says the K-12 initiative helps strengthen the relationship that many of the campuses already have established with their local high schools.
“All of this is really new. It’s a challenge because we’re still getting the people in place to work with the high schools,” he says.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com