When I attended the August training for the Bridge to College English course in 2015, my family and I had moved from one Eastern Washington town, Pullman, to another, Davenport, just five days prior to leaving for the conference. My teaching position grew from two preps (Junior American Literature and AP) to six preps (9th, 10th, 11th, SBA Support, Creative Writing/Film Studies and Bridge to College). If Bridge to College was going to be a canned curriculum, I was going to live with it for the sake of my sanity. I mean six preps? Really, who wouldn’t want at least one “easy” planning period?
But it isn’t canned curriculum and it isn’t a replacement for the SBA graduation requirement and it isn’t a remedial class. What it is, or can be, is a lot more than any of those misconceptions about the course. Its potential is so much more that at the end of the 2015-2016 school year, I actively sought a leadership position as a table lead for a Community of Practice (CoP).
It is rigorous.
The name “Bridge to College” has some mistakenly thinking this is a remedial high school course, when in fact it is not. To put context to it, if an AP course is considered college level, Bridge to College would be pre-college level. This distinction is an important one as counselors and college admission programs become familiar with its presence on transcripts. The modules’ focuses in this course–from analyzing rhetoric to writing researched arguments–are meant to give students the skills to be successful in a Comp 101 class their first year at college.
It is collaborative.
Teachers and districts must agree to release days for the Bridge to College teachers throughout the school year. On these days, teachers meet in teams of four to seven to discuss implementation, expectations, grading norms, and resources. These days are essential for course implementation because a Bridge to College teacher may be the only teacher of that course in the building. The CoP time allows for collaboration that would normally happen in a building PLC.
It is a partnership.
The course was designed in partnership with OSPI and The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) and continues to be a grade 12-16 endeavor. In my particular CoP we worked with a HigherEd liaison from EWU. Working with the university partner was a game-changer for my teaching practices beyond the scope of Bridge to College. Understanding the difference between college level, college ready and not ready for Comp 101 helped me develop a scope and sequence with a better definition of where students needed to be in both reading and writing.
Beyond the collaborative work with college partners, all Washington community colleges have agreed to waive their Enlgish placement test if a student earned a 2 on the SBA and a B in the Bridge to College course. EWU has also agreed to honor this in lieu of a placement exam. This has the potential so save our students tremendous time and money.
It is ever-evolving.
SBCTC continuously asks teachers for feedback on the modules, novels and resources. While there are essential components that form the building blocks of a module (pre-reading, reading, post-reading, connecting reading to writing and rhetorical writing activities), sharing resources to enhance the materials and to make it relevant to a teacher’s specific classroom is an ongoing process. This year three additional modules were also added to give even more choice and flexibility.
It is funded.
The grants awarded in 2015 and 2016 pay for travel, supplies and a stipend for those teachers who attend the August conference. My district was incredibly flexible and supportive with the use of the grant. I was reimbursed for all of my travel expenses, bought class sets of novels, a sampling of the novels I did not teach, and received my $750 stipend for my attendance at the August Institute. The money was also able to cover the cost of substitutes and/or could be used for professional development in support of the class. Because I already have my books for next year, I plan to use some of 2016-2017’s stipend to fund a field trip to one of the local colleges. Students will learn to use the library for research, sit in on a lecture, and access the writing center to familiarize students with the academic resources of a college.
I quickly discovered that Bridge to College was a framework I needed to make work for me, and I look forward to rearranging and supplementing more next year. I made several mistakes along the way though:
- I should have found more outside materials, i.e. video clips, relevant articles, political cartoons. This would have made it even more relevant for students.
- I worried about fidelity in the wrong places. While I stayed true to the assessments at the end of the modules (a must really), I should have taken advantage of the flexibility in the pre-reading, reading and post-reading areas.
- I needed to look more carefully at the end writing assignments. Next year the order of units will be better aligned in regards to the skills need in the unit rather than the thematics or unit topics.
Overall though, I am excited for the potential, especially the potential to see continued partnerships helping students achieve.
For more information on Bridge to College English visit:
I enjoy working with teachers to pool our collective ideas and talents.To fill my teaching bucket in this way, I participate in the ESD 101 ELA Fellows, lead a community of practice for Bridge to College and enjoy working with the CorelaborateWa teachers.
I am in my twelfth year teaching; two doors down the hall, my husband is in his second year as an AgEd teacher and FFA adviser . Our two young daughters, 8 and 5, keep us crazy-- I mean busy--as we juggle 4-H, dance, basketball, t-ball and more.
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