Defining the Problem that Brought the Team Together
The population of Minnesota’s Twin Cities metro area is nearly 10% foreign born, with more than 336,000 individuals born outside the United States. The Twin Cities and greater Minnesota has the largest Somali, Karen and urban Hmong populations in the country, as well as one of the largest Ethiopian and Liberian populations nationally. As identified by the Minnesota Compass project, immigrant workers in Minnesota are concentrated at the high- and low-skill ends of the labor force, with 25% having less than a high school diploma and 33% having a bachelor’s degree or higher. Between these extremes, 42% of the foreign-born population age 25 and older have either a high school diploma (or equivalent), some college experience or an Associate’s degree.
One major challenge for New Americans who want to pursue a college education is developmental education. They often are tracked into developmental classes (pre-college-level reading and writing) prior to entry into their college program of choice. In 2012, more than 49.2% of the students enrolled at Saint Paul College took one or more developmental education courses. Alarmingly, 92.7% of these students belonged to groups that were underrepresented in higher education (including immigrant populations). Students tracked into these courses often have lower academic success rates, spend more money, take much longer to complete their college programs (if they complete them at all), and have greater barriers to college completion than those who do not require these courses.
Description of the Partners
Fulfilling its mission of “Helping New Americans achieve self-sufficiency and full membership in American life,” the International Institute of Minnesota (IIM), located in Saint Paul, MN, assists New Americans in their transition to a new homeland by providing critical programs and services for integration into a new community. The Institute welcomes New Americans to Minnesota by providing a wide variety of services: from food and shelter to educational programs, workforce readiness and citizenship services. Throughout its 97-year history, the Institute has adapted to the needs of new immigrant groups by hiring bilingual staff, designing relevant programs and services, and responding to the evolving needs of clients. The Institute’s Medical Careers Pathway provides academic and technical skills training, paired with wrap-around support services, to help New Americans begin their careers in healthcare and advance to higher-paying jobs. The Institute serves approximately 3,000 individuals annually through refugee resettlement, education and workforce training, immigration and other walk-in services. All program participants are low-income refugees and immigrants.
Saint Paul College (SPC) is a two-year community and technical college located near downtown Saint Paul. The College has a 100-year tradition of serving the diverse communities of the Saint Paul and Minneapolis metropolitan areas. Since its inception in 1910, SPC has provided outreach to urban residents, underrepresented students and immigrants new to the city. Nearly 70% of the 9,690 students live in the inner city and the average student age is 29. Saint Paul College is the most diverse college in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system, enrolling 61% students of color. An estimated 40% of students attending SPC are New Americans, with a large increase in the population of full-time students who speak a language other than English at home.
Original Work Plan
IIM has operated a Medical Careers Pathway program for more than 20 years and knows, based on experience, that with effective teaching and support, immigrants can succeed in higher education and move into higher-wage careers that can sustain their families. The pathway has entry points for individuals at all levels of college preparedness and utilizes tools such as bridge classes, integrated instruction and support services to help New Americans advance into better-paying jobs. However, many New American nursing assistant graduates from both IIM and Saint Paul College want to enter the LPN program to advance their careers and increase their earning power but need academic support in order to do so. Additionally, they have had a history of doing poorly in prerequisite (gateway) classes and/or are ill-prepared for the required TEAS entrance test. Consequently, their low grade point average and/or low TEAS scores prevent them from entering the training program. To attempt to improve the transition of New Americans from the IIM Medical Careers Pathway program to the credit-bearing healthcare programs at SPC, the team identified two goals that they hoped to achieve as part of BCPIW.
Offer an effective TEAS test preparation course.
Implement bridge and support classes for the LPN pre-requisite courses at SPC including: English Composition, biology, and psychology. These classes have proven to be a barrier to immigrant students’ success.
The first pilot of the TEAS Prep class was offered September 9 – October 21, 2015. Twenty-eight students attended the class with ½ attending at least 75% of the sessions, ¾ attending at least 50% of the sessions, and 18 completing. New Americans accounted for 75% of the students who expressed interest in the pilot class and 75% of those who actually participated.
The team pre-tested all of the students with an official practice exam to measure progress. Both average and median scores on the students’ pre-class practice TEAS test were roughly 55% in reading, English, and math. Their science scores were 20 points lower: 35%. The overall average score was 50%. Practice post-test scores revealed marked improvement: the average science score had risen to 63%; the average overall score was 57%.
Of the nine students who submitted their TEAS exam scores to the team, six were admitted to the LPN program. Many of the students delayed testing until they felt better prepared. 94% of the students who submitted program evaluations stated that they would have benefited from a longer session: 16-20 three-hour classes rather than the 13 three-hour classes offered in the fall pilot. They also overwhelming agreed that the online pre- and post-practice tests that they were required to purchase – as well as TEAS practice book – were valuable preparation.
To improve data collection and analysis, the team developed a new database which will help in producing a more thorough analysis of program outcomes in the future.
Although obtaining additional funding to expand programming to include biology, composition, and psychology classes has proven to be a challenge, it appears that there may be funding to offer a supported biology class during the next academic year.
Impact of the Initiative and Lessons Learned
There is a significant demand for TEAS prep classes: there were 36 applicants and an additional 15 queries during the week-long period when applications were being accepted. As of November 30, there were 33 additional queries about the January class even though it had not yet formally been announced. A small number of students who participated in the pilot expressed a desired to repeat it since many of them were only able to attend one day a week. Others entered the pilot with significant academic deficits in multiple subject areas. Still others were taking too many required classes to devote the needed time to TEAS prep. In the future, twice weekly attendance will be required. Moreover, students who plan to take a class load that may interfere with TEAS prep will be identified during the application process. The program manager will work with these students one-to-one to ensure that they take the TEAS Prep class at the optimal moment.
For the pilot program, all of the applicants were accepted into the program. In the future, a more comprehensive assessment process and criteria for acceptance into classes will need to be modified if the demand for classes increases significantly. Preference will be given to students who are referred by IIM and plan to apply to the LPN program at SPC, and who needed remedial reading and writing classes before they were college-ready.
The online pre- and post-practice tests need to be taken during class time to ensure that all students get test-taking experience and that adequate data is available to evaluate the program’s success.
Many students were unaware of, or had misinformation about, the required nursing seminar, TEAS testing, and LPN application deadlines at Saint Paul College. To rectify this situation, the TEAS instructor – supported by the IIM program manager – will assume a more proactive role to ensure that all students understand application requirements and deadlines. Accordingly, SPC will identify more effective ways of communicating LPN-related information to all LPN candidates, including those not in the IIM Medical Careers Pathway or TEAS Prep class.
Future Plans and Sustainability of the Partnership
The team is very much committed to sustaining the TEAS Prep class well into the future. The second session will be longer: January 12 – March 17, 2016 (20 3-hour classes). The plan is to include a curriculum component on healthcare careers to raise awareness of the many other healthcare options. A third session is likely to be scheduled for late-summer through early autumn 2016.
Although funding will continue to be an issue, the positive news is that the team may be able to sustain part of program costs for the TEAS Preparation class with reimbursements from the Minnesota Adult Basic Education with the remainder of the costs covered by another grant source. The team is also submitting a grant to the Saint Paul Foundation for Education to Employment (E2E) a collaboration among SPC, IIM and the YWCA to support the healthcare pathway to employment.
Jane Graupman, Executive Director, International Institute of Minnesota
Merle Greene, Program Director, College Readiness Academy, International Institute of Minnesota
Kelly Murtaugh, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Saint Paul College
Linda Kingston, Dean of STEM and Liberal Arts, Saint Paul College