Dalton State’s Near Peer Program Is Model for Others
April 17, 2012
Dalton State’s Near Peer program, which provides intensive instruction to select high school seniors and prepares them for the rigors and realities of college life, is being held up as a model for the state and has been funded for a second year.
“We have had impressive results from our Near Peer students and are encouraged that this is a program that could have a real impact on educational attainment levels for our area and could be replicated in communities across the state,” said Sarah McCown who coordinates the program for Dalton State.
The innovative transition program is funded by The College Access Challenge Grant Program through the U.S. Department of Education. The students, all from Whitfield County high schools, receive high school elective credit.
The Near Peer class meets daily at the Dalton State East campus each afternoon, McCown said. Intensive instruction in math and language arts is provided Monday through Thursday; on Fridays, student peer mentors from Dalton State work with the high school seniors on topics related to college success. There are also tours of the Dalton State campus and instruction on topics such as applying for college and financial aid.
“The Near Peer students develop bonds with the Dalton State students and they’re making connections with people on campus, “ McCown said. “The program does not commit them in any way to Dalton State, but helps them to see that a college education can be a reality for them.”
Students served by the program are from populations underrepresented in postsecondary education in Georgia; almost all of them, McCown said, would be first generation college students although some have siblings that are in college.
In its first semester, Near Peer students recorded impressive achievement gains on COMPASS scores which are used for college placement purposes and to determine where remedial classes are indicated. McCown reported that student COMPASS scores revealed a 33 percent increase in algebra, a 23 percent increase in writing, and a 12 percent gain in reading scores at the end of the semester-long program. There was also, McCown said, a 43 percent reduction in the number of learning support (remedial) classes required after completing the program. “One student went from needing three learning support classes (the maximum number possible) to needing zero,” she said. “I can’t tell you how excited she was.
Eight of the 11 original Near Peer students have applied to Dalton State College for admission in Fall 2012. “None will require remedial classes based on their COMPASS test scores,” McCown said proudly. “This program has made a real impact in these students’ lives.”
Screening is underway now to identify Near Peer students for the fall semester.