Five myths of remedial ed

Five Myths of Remedial Ed “hinder our pursuit of college success,” argue Jane V. Wellman of the Delta Project on Postsecondary Costs, Productivity and Accountability and Bruce Vandal, who directs Getting Past Go for the Education Commission of the States in Inside Higher Ed.

According to Wellman and Vandal, the myths are: remedial education is K-12’s problem, it’s a short-term problem, colleges know how to determine readiness, remedial ed is bankrupting the system and “maybe some students just aren’t college material.”

Remedial education is the 800-pound gorilla that stands squarely in the path of our national objective to increase the number of adults with a college degree. If we dispel these myths, the solutions become clear: get higher education to articulate what it means to be college-ready, implement those college-ready standards in high school, fund remedial education programs in ways that reward student success, and customize coursework to meet students’ needs.

Only 25 percent of community college students who start in remedial classes complete a credential, they estimate.

W. Norton Grubb analyzes instruction in remedial classes in California community colleges in a new Policy Analysis for California Education study. Grubb estimates that 60 percent of community college students — perhaps 80 percent in California — start in remedial classes.

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON July 26, 2011

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[…] Five myths of remedial education. Number one: It’s all the fault of K-12 schools. […]


You highlight a big issue with remedial education – very few students who enroll as remedial students complete a program so as to obtain a degree or credential. It seems wrong-headed to push colleges to accept and offer additional support for remedial students without looking at the outcomes, and proving up-front that you’ll appreciably improve rates of completion. Who is going to repay those student loans or compensate students who are accepted into programs they don’t complete for their opportunity costs? Oh yeah… the students have to absorb those costs, themselves.

The most insidious of myths is the notion that some students may not be college material. After all, as this myth goes, students who are not college-ready may not possess the motivation, interest and wherewithal to succeed. These students should just learn a trade and move on. This ignores the reality that some postsecondary education is the ticket to the middle class, and that many students go to college to get the knowledge and skills needed to move into a trade.

The problem here is that the refutation is not even slightly responsive to the “myth”. Yes, if you complete a college degree you’re more likely to enjoy a middle class lifestyle. But how does that mean that everybody is qualified to complete a college degree, or that remedial education will suddenly become transformative such that remedial students’ completion rates will rise to acceptable levels?

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