Lee named STAR Award Finalist

Lee College’s Developmental Education Program was recently named one of eight finalists for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating (THECB) Board’s STAR Award. Established in 2001, the award recognizes exceptional contributions toward meeting one or more of the goals of Closing the Gaps by 2015, the THECB higher education plan adopted in Oct. 2000.

The annual competition began in May with a call for nominations. Nominees then submitted applications, which were reviewed by an internal staff panel at THECB. A preliminary list of finalists were submitted to the Commissioner of Higher Education and Chair of the Coordinating Board, who then determined the actual finalists.

In the next phase of the competition, an External Review Panel consisting of three Coordinating Board members, three Texas business and community leaders, and three out-of-state higher education experts, will review all finalist applications and select the award recipient. This year’s winner will be announced at the 12th Annual Star Awards Ceremony and Luncheon, to be held Thursday, Oct. 4, in Austin.

“The Star Award recognizes institutions, programs and partnerships that have worked to improve the accessibility and quality of education in Texas by increasing student enrollment and graduation, as well as improving the quality of educational programs,” said Dr. Cathy Kemper, vice president of learning at Lee College. “To have made it to this point in the competition and be recognized at the state level for our efforts in restructuring our Developmental Education Program is indeed gratifying.”

As program focused on students not yet prepared for college-level courses, Dr. Kemper says Developmental Education was once plagued by high enrollment and low success rates.

“Before restructuring the program, the college studied developmental education data and research and concluded that a new, centralized Developmental Education Division would best meet the needs of our diverse student population,” she explained. “Efforts were placed on selecting a faculty leader and hiring instructors with experience, interest and coursework in remedial adult education. The instructors, in turn, worked as a team to develop strategies and initiatives for student success.”

Since being restructured in 2007, the program has experienced a 15-percent increase in overall student success and completion, she adds.

“Interventions, such as increasing the number of contact hours, adding fast-track courses and engaging learning strategies have increased success rates in Developmental Math, for example, to between 65 and 75 percent,” Dr. Kemper said. “Other changes, such as the addition of an embedded counselor, and a learning strategies course, have helped students manage the transition into a college environment.”

The results of these changes, she says, are not only measured by the double-digit improvements to success rates. “Our Developmental Education team is doing more than just helping students in the classroom; they are helping develop educated, gainfully employed and socially aware residents of our local community, and that is the greatest reward we could ask for.”