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Math Initiative Earns Montgomery College Top National Honors

The National Council of Instructional Administrators (NCIA), headquartered at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has selected winners in its 2006 Exemplary Initiatives Competition, and Montgomery College earned top honors in the “Curriculum Innovation” category for its highly-successful math outcomes lab. San Juan College in Farmington, NM, and Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, IL, received honorable mentions for curriculum innovation.

NCIA is a professional organization affiliated with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The awards recognize outstanding ways to enhance the quality of higher education provided at the two-year institutions in the United States.

Each year, community colleges submit a variety of “Best Practices” that correspond to annual award categories. This year, the 18th for the Exemplary Initiatives Awards competition, NCIA officials solicited entries in six broad areas; Student Retention and Success, Curriculum Innovation, Organizational Change, Assessment of Student Learning, Workforce Development, and Responding to Community Needs.

"This recognition is a direct result of having some truly excellent and innovative faculty members who are undaunted and try to do the very best for their students," said Dr. Julie Leidig, vice president for instruction at Montgomery College. The administrative support from Montgomery College President, Dr. Tom Butler, as well as Deborah Ellington, instructional dean, "made this project possible," she added.

The NCIA award is the second national award that the math outcomes lab has received. Earlier this year, the project earned “finalist” status for the prestigious “Bellwether Award,” known as the “Heisman Trophy” of awards given to community colleges.

Dr. Leidig applauded the Montgomery College mathematics department as a whole, and Dr. Maureen Loiacano, chair of the math and education department, along with professors Nasrin Shafai, Yvonne Stallings and John Saccente, in particular, for the success of the program.

"They worked an incredible number of hours but they were so completely dedicated to their task and so convinced that they were doing the right thing that they overcame all the obstacles," said Dr. Leidig. "I think they are very deserving of the award.

The Learning Outcome Assessment Lab uses technology and a flexible schedule to help pre-algebra, introductory algebra and intermediate algebra students better retain course material by testing outcomes individually throughout the course, versus just taking a test covering all information at the end of the semester.

"We know that many math students fall behind early in the semester and subsequently can’t catch up," said Dr. Loiacano. "So we chose to develop a program where students could utilize a lab that is open during flexible hours and uses software and technology to test their progress in order to meet their objectives, so they essentially do not move on until they have mastered an objective."

When students don’t pass an objective, they are allowed to take the test up to seven times and when they go to review their test, lab proctors review it with them so they can see what areas they missed and how they can improve.

The Outcome Assessment Lab has delivered substantial results and has better prepared students for math courses, said Dr. Loiacano.

"Statistically, students who passed the learning outcomes did significantly better than those who did not," she said. "We are very pleased with the success rate and to see that this program is really helping our students achieve and learn. Of course, national recognition such as being selected for the NCIA curriculum award is a great honor and is one that we are very proud to have received."

Lone Star College-Kingwood, also part of the Lone Star College System, received honorable mention in the “Organizational Change” category for its initiative, “The Leader in Me.”

Awards were presented at the NCIA Celebration Breakfast in April, as part of the group’s Instructional Leadership Academy in Tampa, FL.

Montgomery College is located at 3200 College Park Drive, one-half mile west of Interstate 45, between Conroe and The Woodlands. For more information about the college, call (936) 273-7000 or visit montgomery.lonestar.edu.

NHMCCD, among the largest and fastest growing community colleges in Texas, comprise, Cy-Fair College, Kingwood College, Montgomery College, North Harris College, Tomball College, six satellite centers, and The University Center.