Connecticut may end remedial requirement

Connecticut colleges would drop required remedial courses by 2014, under proposed legislation, reports the Hartford Courant.  All students would be able to take college-level classes with “embedded” remedial support.

“We have kids who spend years in remedial classes, paying for a class every semester, not able to take any other classes, so it really slows completion,” said Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, who introduced the bill and is co-chairwoman of the higher education committee. “In community college, so many things get in the way, so every semester, you delay [students], you’re hurting their chances. … Time is the enemy.”

The bill, which sailed through the higher education committee,  would require an intensive “college readiness” program for poorly prepared students before the start of their first semester.

While the state’s Board of Regents supports the bill, some professors say it won’t work for low-level remedial students.

“We have students who are reading at the eighth- and ninth-grade levels, who are writing incomplete sentences [and] run-ons. They have essays that don’t have any internal coherence, that don’t have a main idea,” said Thomas Hodgkin, an English professor at Northwest Community College. “I’m not sure that can be remediated in one semester or even two semesters.”

What we are currently doing is not working,” said David Levinson, president of Norwalk Community College and interim regents vice president for the state’s 12 community colleges. Some 15 to 20 percent of community college courses are remedial, he estimated.

Seventy percent of the state’s community college students and 20 percent of state university students take at least one remedial course.

Remedial work should be a “co-requisite” not a prerequisite to college, said Stan Jones, president of Complete College America.

Community College Dean speculates on how embedded remediation might work and how success could be measured.

Comparing pass rates of the “new” English 101 to the previous 101 will almost certainly suggest terrible failure, since the previous one featured only those students who had already made it through (or bypassed) remediation. The relevant measures, I’d think, would include success rates in the followup course (Composition 2, say), graduation, and measures of student outcomes on defined learning objectives.  Even if the pass rates in 101 are abruptly lower than they once were, they may still be higher than the combined pass rates of two semesters of remediation plus 101.  Ultimately, if more students make it into comp 2, you’ll know it “worked.”

Connecticut, which recently centralized its community college system, would be wise to try out the idea at a few campuses rather than imposing it systemwide, advises the dean.