The award-winning trio of Developmental Reading faculty who have increased student success rates with their Confronting Our Grades initiative is adding another accolade to their impressive list of awards and project presentations. After winning the Innovation of the Year Award last year, they have been named this year’s Master Educators.

The Master Educator Award is given to faculty members who have developed a unique program or teaching technique that benefits students. These faculty teach students how to read chapters or articles to glean the important knowledge needed through active reader skills. They also make it a priority to make connections with other areas of the college, such as Tutoring, Academic Advising and the Counseling and Career Development Center, for increased support to students.

“Our reading students are an at-risk population whose success relies on the skills learned in developmental classes. To be honored for our hard efforts affirms that we are, in fact, making changes that are benefitting our students,” said Dr. Jennifer Lee-Good, associate professor of Developmental Reading.

For over a decade, Dr. Rita Ferriter, associate professor of Developmental Reading; Susan Godwin, professor of Developmental Reading; and Lee-Good have embarked on a journey of trust, courage and self-assessment to “confront the grades” they distribute and reflect on each of their teaching philosophies and practices.

They discovered a severe compression of passing grades existed —most of the successful students received grades of C, with only 4% receiving an A grade, and they were not passing as many students as they thought. Also, students in the lowest level of reading were not persisting into credit courses. They decided to align their efforts and re-evaluate how they were going to assess, grade and support students.

The process led to greater grading uniformity and a shifted focus to individual grade patterns and the actual meaning of the grades they give students. The lasting changes not only increased student efficacy and rewarded students more equitably for the learning, but also dramatically increased student success rates for the entire program. They had shifted the distribution of passing grades and raised the overall course success rates—defined as students receiving an A, B or C — by more than 45%.

“This project has taken on dimensions that neither Rita, Susan nor I realized,” Lee-Good said. “We knew we were looking at how to better support our students within our classrooms, but we did not realize the timeframe of the project, the amount of collaboration necessary among us and truly how much needed insight it would provide. Instructors and administrators, both within and outside of the college, who have taken the time to understand our students, our efforts and our progress have, in turn, begun to consider possible efforts that can happen within their own classrooms and departments.”

The faculty now are using insight gained from their Confronting Our Grades project to eliminate the existing three levels of reading to create two new reading classes that will provide two pathways for reading students beginning in fall 2023. This work is in response to HB-2170, which established the Developmental Education Reform Act that uses new measures to place students in developmental education courses.

“As we develop our two new courses, we are very much aware to create our curriculum, assignments, tests and support to reflect what was learned from this project academically, personally and professionally,” Lee-Good said. “While we are pleased with our progress and gain in knowledge, we thoroughly understand the need to always evaluate, collaborate on what we are seeing and discuss possible revisions as we move forward. It is easy to get comfortable with a class you have taught numerous times, but it is very important to be open to evaluation and revision.”

Godwin said being named Master Educators as a team is very gratifying. “We truly had to hunker down and work through the process together. It was a journey, and we ended up stronger and more cohesive.”

Ferriter agreed. “We appreciate the recognition of our efforts through this award. Our success was rooted in our ability to work together while keeping a student-centered focus. I truly enjoyed working with Jenny and Susan and am honored by this award.”