Why it’s hard to fix remedial ed

Community colleges know remedial education isn’t working, but don’t know how to fix it, writes Michelle Hodara and Shanna Smith Jaggars on the Impatient Optimists blog. concludes a report by the Community College Research Center.

Sixty percent of recent high school graduates are required to take remedial classes that cost their community colleges $2 billion or more to provide, they writes. Only a quarter of remedial students ever go on to obtain a college degree or credential.

In a report for the Community College Research Center, Hodara and Jaggars look at why it’s so hard to fix remedial education, even though everyone concedes it’s broken.

. . . there is currently no assessment method that can definitively determine whether students are ready for college-level classes. As a result, even if states or systems set a central policy, individual colleges tend to perceive it as ineffective and push back against it. Consequently, the assessment test cut-off scores used by central offices and colleges are often inconsistent, and none effectively predict success.

. . . a significant number of students are misplaced: some assigned to college-level courses need remediation, and many placed in remediation don’t need it to pass college classes.

Among students with the same remedial test scores, those who start in college-level classes do as well or better as students who take remedial classes, they write. “But without a remedial screening system, college-level courses would be flooded with underprepared students.” Instructors fear they’d have to fail large numbers of students or lower standards.

To create a more coherent system, colleges should bring faculty together to identify common learning outcomes for remedial and key introductory college classes. Placement tests should then be developed around these outcomes, made up of progressive modules that test increasingly advanced knowledge.

Colleges should design accelerated remedial classes that include “targeted support” for students’ weaknesses, they suggest. In addition, remedial courses should be linked to fields of study, such as “developmental math for business and accounting majors.”


POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON February 20, 2012

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[…] teaching the same pool of students.  One fascinating titbit that fell out of this little blog post was the difficulty of evaluating college-readiness in any predictive way: Among students with the […]

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