JOSHUA TREE — Elected officials from the Morongo Unified School District and the Copper Mountain Community College District met last week to discuss ways to improve success for students leaving high school and entering college.

The boards discussed joint projects including their dual-enrollment agreement, a joint coding club and a program called Guided Pathways for Success.

CMC Board of Trustees President Greg Gilbert called the meeting to order Thursday afternoon and welcomed MUSD Superintendent Tom Baumgarten and board of education members Hilary Slotta and John Cole to Copper Mountain College.

As the meeting opened, CMC computer science instructor James Powell spoke about the success of the coding club that meets at the college. College, high school and even middle school students meet together in the club. College students act as mentors for the younger students, who can participate in five pathways: 2D animation, 3D design, robotics, computer repair and virtual reality game design.

“The teaching is being done by my best students,” Powell said. “We have 12 mentors.”

The club launched over the summer with a camp that attracted nearly 100 students.

CMC deans Tony DiSalvo and Jane Abell presented statistics on some other joint projects.

This year, DiSalvo said, the college stopped using placement tests and instead uses students’ high school grades and classes to determine their math and English placement.

DiSalvo said this will make the admissions process easier for students and will allow the college to place students in fewer remedial classes.

“If you give students that bump up, they’ll rise to the occasion,” he said.

CMC has also in the past year eliminated all reading courses and embedded their curriculum into existing English courses. 

The college has also gotten rid of its lowest math class and is looking at combining the math 50 and math 40 classes. Students who were placed into these low classes were finding it nearly impossible to graduate in four years, Abell said.

She went on to discuss Pathways of Interest — a new system for students who don’t know what they want to major in, but do know their general interests.

CMC offers five pathways of interest: business and industry, health and public service, creative art and design, social sciences and human services and science, technology and mathematics.

Using those pathways, counselors can advise students on which classes to take during their first year.

DiSalvo went on to speak about the dual-enrollment program, which allows students at Yucca Valley and Twentynine Palms high schools to take college-level courses in high school and earn college credit. In the 2018-19 school year, 169 students were enrolled in these courses and more than 90 percent passed, DiSalvo said.

All of their credits are transferable to CMC or any California State University.

MUSD Superintendent Baumgarten asked the deans to research the passing rates of MUSD students going into CMC so the school district can see which areas it needs to better prepare students in before sending them off to college.

He went on to say that he was really happy with the boards’ cooperation and the growth of the dual-enrollment program.

“This has been something we’ve been building for a period of time, building an opportunity for all students while they’re in high school to earn their associate degree and have opportunities for gainful employment with high level skills,” he said. “We are beginning to make that happen.”

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