‘A’ students don’t belong in remedial ed

Are College Entrants Overdiagnosed as Underprepared? More A students are being placed in remedial college classes, notes researcher Judith Scott-Clayton on the New York Times‘ Economix blog. “For students with high school grade-point averages between 3.5 and 4.0, remediation rates have more than doubled.”  It’s not grade inflation, she writes, because  ”the percentage of students with G.P.A.’s in this range has not changed.”  She thinks it’s the increasing use of not-very-accurate placement tests.

Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Beginning Postsecondary Students database; computation by N.C.E.S. QuickStats.

Most students who enter remedial classes never make it out, she writes.

My own research, using data from a large urban community college system with particularly high remediation rates, estimates that one in four students assigned to math remediation could have passed a college-level math course with a grade of B or better and one in three students assigned to English remediation could have passed freshman composition with a B or better.

“Exempting students with strong high school backgrounds from placement testing could lower remediation rates by 8 to 12 percentage points, without affecting pass rates in college-level courses,” Scott-Clayton writes.


POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON May 4, 2012

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LSquared

There’s another possible cause of the jump, which would be a disconnect between what is being taught in the high school classes and what is being measured by the placement test. It’s possible to get high grades in your math class and get low grades on the placement test if your high school math class didn’t teach the same things that are assessed on the test. Some of the changes that have been made to high school math programs (through adoption of particular textbook curricula) make them less well aligned with the expectations for a traditional college math trajectory (college algebra-trigonometry-calculus), which is what is typically measured by a placement test. Keep in mind that in many places, the placement tests (and cut scores) have not changed between 1995 and 2003, so this isn’t necessarily a case of college requirements becoming stricter, it’s a case of one set of expectations being changed (what high school graduates should know and be able to do) without another set being changed (what college students should be able to know and do).

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