Local schools to benefit from NKU grant

Preparation for college classes can be a struggle for new freshmen, especially when they already have a great deal of stress piling up on their plates. With a new education grant, Northern Kentucky University is hoping to alleviate some of that stress.

NKU was recently awarded a $25,000 grant to help teach high school students how to improve their writing in order to increase their college preparedness.

NKU professor Nancy Kersell, who has been working since summer 2010 to get the grant and will administer the new program, is helping high school students better prepare for college-level writing.

“I taught high school English many years ago, and also worked in business. These experiences — and having taught composition at NKU since 1986 — have shown me that many high school students don’t realize how much employers and institutions of higher learning value the skills of writing clearly and correctly,” Kersell said.

The expanded program will start in August, when it will offer its first workshop for teachers on campus.

The EAP (English for academic purposes), which was launched in fall 2010, offers a free voluntary test to high school juniors that gives them an early indication of how well they will succeed in college-level writing courses. The pilot program included teachers and students from Campbell County High School, Dixie Heights High School and Conner High School.

“In particular, we want to encourage students to improve their analytical writing skills when they still have time during their senior year to get more instruction. Our test covers knowledge of grammar and mechanics, as well as the ability to compose a cohesive essay interpreting nonfiction writing prompt,” Kersell said.

Kersell looks at the problems she feels students fresh out of high school face.

“My own opinion is that students often do not read closely or carefully enough to define and analyze key concepts. Although students in our region have had extensive instruction and practice in writing for different audiences and purposes, some of them struggle with the higher intellectual level of reading and writing assignments required in college,” she said.

Freshman media informatics major Jacob Reynolds took the college writing course in fall 2010, but was not impressed.

“It is pretty much the same as high school but I went to a private high school,” he said. “It was almost like they were teaching you, but they really didn’t. The high school class really didn’t help at all.”

Many high schools around the state offer an array of programs to better prepare students for what college writing classes will expect from them. The schools offer preparatory classes and advanced placement programs.

“I went to a college preparatory high school,” said freshman journalism major Diamond Crumpton-Scott. “It really prepared me.”

The only issue with programs like this is that not every school offers it, and if they do, then the students are responsible for paying for the class. This is the main reason why Kersell and NKU have worked so hard to attain a grant.

“I am very pleased that the Council on Postsecondary Education is funding programs to help students successfully make the transition from high school into college/university education. Everyone involved with this program is excited about making a positive contribution to college readiness and placement initiatives,” Kersell said.

Kersell has never been alone in pushing for the program. The advisory board, which helped with the pilot program includes Instruction Director Dr. Jen Cellio, Dr. Ellen Maddin from the College of Education and several school district curriculum specialists and high school English department chairs.

With the money granted to the school, the program that they have been working on for years has big plans for the future.

Story by Allegra Carpenter