PAC’s students surprising need for developmental classes

By Irma Martinez
Pulse staff reporter

One of PAC's learning centers in Nueces hall.
One of PAC’s Learning Centers in Nueces Hall, Room 114.

Fifteen percent of the 11,238 students at Palo Alto College (all terms in the semesters)–a total of 1,726 students–are enrolled in developmental reading, writing and math classes and are not quite sure how exactly that happened because they thought they did well in high school.

Thirty-seven percent of those students (645 students) are taking developmental reading and writing classes, and 81 percent (1,398 students) are taking developmental math classes. Students take the TSI placement test before being able to register for classes and often discover that they aren’t college ready. The majority of those students are recent high school graduates.

Selina Bonilla, a INRW tutor at PAC, helps students with their writing by giving them peer reviews and one-on-one tutoring.

“I have helped students by teaching them how to build a five-paragraph essay, how to write a thesis statement and help them with their grammar,” she said.

Bonilla said that the tutoring center also works with the professors who teach developmental classes by following along the same topic as their class lectures.

“PAC is on the South Side of San Antonio and majority of the population here in the South Side is Hispanic, so for some of these students, English isn’t the primary language at home. Most of the students with English as a second language background weren’t taught to speak or read in English until they started to go to school,” said Bonilla.

“They wouldn’t practice to read or write because it wasn’t the primary concern. With that being said, students at a young age didn’t care for it, and it got carried down to now when they are lacking certain skills,” she said.

Freshman Early Education major Kaitlyn Kjos graduated from Somerset High School and couldn’t believe she wasn’t college ready.

“I did good in high school. I had good grades, so I thought I was ready, but my TSI score was low in my reading and writing,” she said.

One thing that Kjos wishes that her high school English teacher would have done that would had helped her in her English and reading was more one-on-one.

“More hands-on learning with my teachers would have helped me improve my writing so I could be college ready. All the teachers really cared about was learning only the material needed to pass the STAAR test. Now I’m learning all of these basic skills in college when I am already expected to know it,” she said.

Freshman Pre-Nursing major Lisa Centeno graduated from South Side High School and finds math difficult.

“There are so many formulas, and I need to slowly work on the problems and get them right before I can even move on,” she said.

Not only is Centeno struggling in math, she is also not considered college ready in her reading and writing.

“If I could help high school students be college ready, I would teach them to read and write at a higher level than they are right now,” she said.

Centeno doesn’t have a problem taking these developmental classes as a college freshman.

“I feel good about my classes. I sometimes feel a little behind in class, but I’m constantly learning and growing as a reader, writer and student at PAC,” she said.

Even if you are considered not college ready, PAC has on-campus tutoring from Monday through Friday. The tutoring centers offer one-on-one sessions versus the traditional classroom setting. PAC also offers free online tutoring called Brainfuse as well as free online workshops.

“There’s no shame in wanting to get extra help to succeed and improve academically. We promise to give you good feedback on your work to help you get better,” said INRW tutor Bonilla.

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