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Berkshire Community College Increases Pass Rate for Remedial Reading Class by 74% Using k3000

Pamela Farron, Coordinator of the Disability Resource Center at BCC

The number of students who struggle with reading, writing and math are increasing at community colleges nationwide.  At the same time, the pressure is on to raise graduation rates, meet workforce needs, and close achievement gaps.  In my state of Massachusetts, college funding is now tied to its ability to meet these performance standards.  With a shift in focus from access to completion of degrees, most students who begin in remedial courses never complete their college degrees:

  • Up to 40 percent of all undergraduates need remedial coursework;
  • Less than 50 percent graduate.
  • For MA community colleges, the graduation rate is closer to 15 percent.

About Berkshire Community College

Berkshire Community College is an accredited, co-educational two-year community college in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Its primary campus is in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, with a satellite campus in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and classroom spaces in the city of Pittsfield. Established in the 1960s,

More than 3,000 students enroll annually in BCC's academic programs, which include associate degrees, certificate programs, and transfer programs. An additional 5,200 enroll in noncredit or workforce development courses.  Unfortunately, not dissimilar to other community colleges nationwide, many of our students struggle with reading and comprehension.

After learning about the number of students who place in remedial courses at Berkshire Community College (BCC), I proposed a pilot study utilizing Kurzweil 3000, a web-based literacy tool, in our developmental reading courses.  My hypothesis was that utilization of this program would enable students to be more engaged in the learning process, improve their reading placement scores, and minimize time spent in remedial reading. 

Strategic Plan

The decision to adopt k3000 was based on a careful and thorough evaluation of student needs. The staff and administration recognized that many students struggled with reading as a direct result of specific learning disabilities, English language learning or extended absence from formal schooling.

For the pilot and beyond, the team developed a five-year strategic plan tied to goals outlined in a DHE Vision Project.  The aim is to establish opportunities for faculty and staff to propose innovative projects that propel the college forward along key strategic directions and annual priorities.  The goals included engaged learning, student achievement, improved infrastructure, advancing the institution, and collaborative partnerships.

After looking at how K3000 aligns with the goals and the specific students’ needs -- we launched the program to help the students get through remedial reading:

  1. Students used K3000 for Developmental Reading Classes
    • Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
  2. Instructors embedded guiding questions throughout the digital text
    • Voice and bubble notes helped struggling readers decode complex assignments
  3. Students answer guiding questions via k3000
    • This supported not just the reading side of the assignment but the answering of the questions as well.


As a result of using k3000 Web Access (known as firefly) as an instructional tool and student study aid, students displayed greater engagement and more reading skill improvement compared to students who do not use k3000.  Our pass rate for our remedial reading class increased by 74%.  There was a strong positive correlation between the amount of k3000 use and student reading skills improvement.  The following graph tracks the progress:

Closing Comments

Many students found k3000 significantly alter their learning process for the better:

“Using the program helped me understand what was going on a lot better.” “If I’m reading big books (translation) is sometimes slow…you forget the idea. Now with this it’s easier, it’s faster.”

“I can read, I can understand. But to get a definition when I’m stuck on a word, and can look at the computer to get a definition right there.  I like it.” 

“This program called Kurzweil …that was everything I needed. While you’re reading you’re also answering the questions and be like, wow, I didn’t notice all that in the book.