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.

The math problem

Most remedial math students never move on to college-level classes and a certificate or degree.  A Carnegie Foundation webinar discussed redesigning developmental math programs at community colleges. Carnegie is working with 27 community colleges on Statway, which takes remedial math students through transferable college statistics in one year, and Quantway, an accelerated quantitative literacy pathway that stress using “mathematics and numerical reasoning to make sense of the world.” Go here for the webinar recording.

Developmental mathematics has become a “burial ground for the aspirations” of many community college students, said Uri Treisman, director of the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas. Only 6 to 8 percent of students who start in algebra make it to credit-bearing courses, he said, in part because they’re often taking classes that have no bearing on their goals.