The Greater Rockies Association for Developmental Education (GRADE), an affiliate of the National Association for Developmental Education, held its 2nd annual conference on Saturday, October 3rd at the campus of Montana State University-Billings. Titled “GRA+DE Expectations,” the organizers hosted eight Montana colleges and Chadron State College from Nebraska. Twelve different sessions were offered, including “Great ‘App’tations,” for teaching online math, “Two Can Tango!” a developmental and college level co-req model for writing, “From Risk to Attainment: Using Cohorts to Promote Success,” a TRiO, writing, math, and psychology cohort pilot, “Student Veterans,” a session about integrating an important population in developmental courses, and several others.
GRADE was founded through the efforts of several committed developmental educators in an effort to strengthen ties and communication across the Montana University System and to promote best practices in delivering developmental education. In 2013, the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE) formed a statewide taskforce to study developmental education in Montana and to make recommendations for reform, improvement, and reduction of the numbers of courses students must take and pass prior to enrolling in college-level coursework. The taskforce studied developmental education in Montana and made recommendations, which OCHE supported. Since then, educators at various Montana campuses have taken on the responsibility of creating innovative new courses and streamlined paths from developmental coursework to college-level classes. A variety of pilot, combination, co-requisite, and cohort programs are currently in place throughout the state as educators seek the best ways to support student learning while accelerating student movement toward degree completion.
Those who work in developmental education share several characteristics; they tend to be student-centered, emotionally intelligent, sensitive, responsive, empathetic, and dedicated to student success. Teaching developmental education is not a career for the weak of spirit, and those educators depend on each other for support, encouragement, and professional development within the field of developmental learning as well as within the disciplines of reading, writing, and mathematics. President Rebekah Reger explains that “student success and professional collaboration among teachers is the goal,” and the GRADE mission states,
The purpose of this association is to develop, inform and enhance the professional capabilities of developmental educators, expand the theory and knowledge of best practices in developmental education and provide the public with information about the needs and successes of developmental students and educators. As a regional affiliate of NADE, we are dedicated to helping underprepared students prepare, prepared students advance, and advanced students excel.
The 2016 3rd annual conference will be held in Bozeman, Montana, next fall; President Reger invites all educators from Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, North and South Dakota, and other regional states, who are interested in developmental education and/or how it is delivered, to attend the conference and/or join the organization. More information may be found at the GRADE website: https://sites.google.com/site/devedgrade/