Fresno State's FastForward Program commended

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Fresno State's FastForward Program commended

The Campaign for College Opportunity ranks the FastForward to Academic Success Program at California State University, Fresno one of 15 top programs in the state that improves college access and success for Latino students.

The Campaign for College Opportunity, a coalition of business, education and labor leaders, is dedicated to ensuring the next generation of Californians has the opportunity to go to college, as promised by California’s 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education. It has offices in Los Angeles, Modesto, Oakland and Sacramento.

The campaign issued a report Wednesday, Oct. 24, that included the college program ratings.

The FastForward to Academic Success program at Fresno State, created in 2002, uses online and traditional instruction and counseling to decrease remediation rates and increase retention of Latino students entering the university. Remediation rates are determined by number of students that demonstrate proficiency on entry level math and English.

It was established because a substantial number of high school seniors find they are not prepared for college-level mathematics and English, explained Dr. Victor Olivares, the program director. The current participants are Kerman, Fowler, Firebaugh and Mendota high schools.

The program responds to three significant barriers to minority students’ access and retention: inadequate student preparation in college-prep mathematics and English courses; limitations in the university’s ability to remediate skills deficiencies within one year; and students’ long commute distances.

Students at participating high schools can take a unique course, University 1, their senior year that includes math and English proficiency curricula and other skills.

“By completing University 1 in high school, students experience online classes before entering the university. They earn three college units for completing the course, which also prepares them for English and math placement tests that the CSU requires of entering students,” Olivares explained.

At the collegiate level, retention concerns are addressed by a web-enhanced learning community concept. In the fall, students enroll in the FastForward University 20 class and in the spring, the FastForward Community Service class. All students earn a laptop through community service hours. In addition to the specialized classes, students enroll in general education courses. All students are required to meet with a counselor.

Olivares said evidence of success includes steadily improving proficiency rates on the Entry Level Math test and the English Placement Test with data showing a 53 percent increase in math proficiency and a 37 percent increase in English proficiency since the project’s inception.

“This is a greater rate of improvement than the campus and CSU system-wide improvement ratios for the same time period,” Olivares said, adding that similar patterns of success are evident for university students participating in the FastForward.

The FastForward to Academic Success program is a collaborative effort of the FastForward staff, the university mathematics and English departments, the Technology Initiatives Department at the CSU Chancellor’s Office, the County Offices of Education, Parent Institute For Quality Education – Fresno, the high school boards, and high school staff and instructors. Activities are largely funded through an Hispanic-Serving Institution Title V grant from the U. S. Department of Education, with related costs of approximately $350,000 per year.

The FastForward to Academic Success program has received numerous accolades, including recognition by the CSU trustees, in Time magazine and in Focus, the magazine published by the National Lumina Foundation. FastForward also earned the Gold Learning Impact Award from the IMS Global Learning Consortium and was one of a dozen programs selected worldwide for a site visit by a consultant for Microsoft Education.

Olivares noted that while FastForward focuses on Latinos, who comprise the San Joaquin Valley’s largest ethnic group – 45 percent of the nine-county region – the same barriers to college success exist for students of varying backgrounds.

“Sadly, data shows that Hispanics comprise the largest group of students who need remediation,” Olivares said. “For the future economic vitality of the state, it is critical that we address this issue now.”

For more information, contact: Olivares at 559.278.5205 or victoro@csufresno.edu.

For more information contained in this release, please go to the following Web sites:

College Campaign