‘Stretch’ Classes Aim to Replace Remedial Courses In California
What’s the best way to help a struggling student succeed when one area of focus is keeping them from moving forward? Many of today’s college students come from families where English isn’t the primary language, which puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to college-level writing.
So in the California State University system, so-called “stretch” classes are being used to give students the time and support they need to master the English composition skills. The idea is to replace non-credit remedial courses with alternatives that offer more support—while earning academic credit.
In a stretch class, students get two semesters to master one semester’s worth of material. “One semester is good and all but sometimes you need more to learn to get better at writing,” Cal State Los Angeles freshman Jorge Pivaral told EdSource’s Larry Gordon.
Right now, about 50 percent of campuses in the CSU system offer stretch classes in English composition. Instructor Megan Bowe, an instructor at Cal State Los Angeles, told Gordon that the class “is giving them the time they need to make the shift from high school to college and giving them the scaffolding they need in writing.”
It seems to be working better than the remedial model. Research from San Francisco State found that 94 percent of students finished the stretch sequence, while only 88 percent finished the previous remedial model. Even better, the passing rate is higher, too.
And because so much of college depends on communication with instructors, stretch courses spend more time teaching clear idea formation, rather than emphasizing grammar. As Karen Rowan, an English professor at the San Bernadino campus, told Gordon: “I would rather see a very thoughtful, well organized, deeply thought-out essay that has some sentence-level mistakes in it rather than a polished, perfect looking essay that says nothing.”