Most community college students enroll in remedial classes. Most remedial students never earn a credential. However, ending remediation won’t raise completion rates, argue USC Professor William G. Tierney and graduate student Julia C. Duncheon in an Inside Higher Ed commentary.
Reformers are targeting remedial education, they write.
Lawmakers in Florida have made remedial classes in math, reading and English optional for students entering community colleges in fall 2014. The placement tests to assess these skills will be optional as well.
Meantime, Tennessee and Connecticut have passed legislation making it easier for students to bypass remediation and enroll directly in courses that lead to graduation and completion of a major. And California State University has lowered its math and English placement test cutoff scores, requiring fewer students to do remedial coursework.
Unprepared students who enroll in remedial classes don’t do any better than similar students who skip remediation, according to Community College Research Center studies. But other research suggests very low-skilled students benefit from remedial education, write Tierney and Duncheon.
Before making remedial classes optional — or eliminating them — colleges should try other options, they argue.
“Accelerated” (or “mainstreaming”) programs mix low- and high-performing students in college-level classes. Students can get extra help in a support class or lab.
Some colleges create “learning communities” for low-scoring students, while others create mixed groups. At Kingsborough Community College in New York, low-scoring students in learning communities took and passed more college-level courses.
Many students — especially graduates of low-performing, high-poverty high schools — need an academic safety net, Tierney and Duncheon argue. Throwing unprepared students into college coursework will not raise completion rates.
In an essay, a journalism professor recalls a pleasant, hard-working journalism major who was “illiterate.” She’d received B’s in English before, she claimed. He struggled with whether to fail her — until she plagiarized.
How did “Kari” get so far in college without being able to read or write?