Report: Scrap most remedial courses

College remedial education requires  ”transformation,” not just tinkering, concludes a national coalition of higher education groups. Core Principles for Transforming Remedial Education recommends scrapping most remedial courses. Instead, most poorly prepared students  would be placed in college-level, for-credit courses with extra support, such as tutoring, computer labs and extra classroom time.

The report was issued by the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas, Complete College America, Education Commission of the States, and Jobs for the Future.

 “Half of all America’s undergraduates and 70% of its community college students begin college in at least one remedial course, and only one in four remedial community college students ever make it to graduation day,” said Stan Jones, president of Complete College America.

For every 10 students assigned to three or more semesters of remedial English, fewer than three ever complete a college-level English class. Only one in 10 students assigned to three or more semesters of remedial math passes a first-year college-level math course.

The report also calls for changing requirements so students take the subjects they need for their program of study, but don’t have to take irrelevant courses. That means not everyone would take algebra.

“This is especially important in math, which is the most significant barrier to college success for remedial students,” said Uri Treisman, director of the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin. “Too many students today are required to pass college-level algebra when statistics or quantitative literacy would be much more appropriate preparation.”

In a joint statement, the groups called for “immediate, large-scale changes” to turn remediation from a barrier to a gateway.

No remediation required

Connecticut may let all students start in college-level classes with “embedded” remedial support, at state colleges and universities, regardless of how they do on placement tests, I write on U.S. News. Currently, 70 percent of new community college students must take at least one remedial class.

Many students are “way more than a little behind,” testified David Levinson, president of Norwalk Community College and the Board of Regents’ interim vice president for community colleges, at a committee hearing on the bill. If students skip remediation, he fears a “Darwinian result where they fail introductory classes in large numbers.”

Students who place into high-level remedial classes can succeed in college-level academic classes, researchers say.

One third to one half of students who place into remedial classes could succeed in college-level classes from the start—with the right support, argues Stan Jones, president of Complete College America. Learning basic skills should be a “co-requisite” rather than a prerequisite, he argues. Under the co-requisite model, students take a college-level course (for credit) and a linked remedial course (for no credit) at the same time.