First-year students who are placed in Algebra II in the first-semester in college based on ACT or SAT math sub-scores are considered under-prepared in engineering and have been identified as an at-risk population. First-time first-year students who are enrolled in Algebra II in the first semester in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS), University XX, number 75-100 annually, forming 20-25% of the first-year CEAS student population. Improving the success and retention of these Algebra II students is important to university enrollment. Placing students into cohorts has been identified as a high impact practice by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) of Indiana University that positively affect student success and retention. In this paper, the details regarding the scale-up and sustaining a cohorts program -- the EXEP Cohorts -- for first-year Algebra II students at University XX will be described. In an EXEP Cohort, ~24 students are enrolled in the same section of 3-to-4 courses in fall semester and in the same section of 3-to-4 courses in spring semester. Progressing through the first-year as a cohort allows students to make connection with peers, faculty and staff, and to form study groups. Cohorts also form a focal point through which student success services and information can be channeled. This paper will describe how to create a cohort program that involves ~100% of Algebra II students, together with details of a two-credit-hour “First-Year Engineering Seminar” that focuses on successful transition from high school to college in engineering, and a 1-credit-hour recitation “Introduction to Engineering Analysis” that links Algebra II topics to applications in engineering. Student performance in Algebra II will be presented, with comparison to baseline performance; as well as performance in subsequent Precalculus, with comparison to baseline performance; and retention rates to engineering and to university, with comparison to baseline retention rates. Students placed in cohorts are tracked by their university identification number. Each subsequent fall semester, the identification numbers by cohort year are run against enrollment data kept by the Office of Institutional Research, to determine the students’ status of enrollment in engineering, enrollment at institution but with a non-engineering major, or non-enrollment, to determine the retention rates. Results so far indicate that the EXEP Cohorts program is correlated to statistically-significant, positive improvements in Algebra II performance and in retention to university. Other improvements, though not statistically-significant, include retention to engineering, and all changes compared to the baseline are positive and never negative. Factors that positively impact sustaining the EXEP Cohorts program for Algebra II students at University XX will be described, together with an estimated cost of the program. University XX is a state-assisted regional institution of higher learning, and it belongs to the CSRDE (Consortium for Student Retention Data Exchange) “Less Selectively” category. Engineering programs with similar student demographics may learn lessons from this project on how to build and scale-up a cohorts program to support the success and retention of Algebra II students and how to sustain the practice.
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