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.
Remedial education is usually left to adjuncts. However, doctoral programs in remedial and developmental education are in the works, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Grambling State offers an EdD in developmental education and Texas plans to create EdD programs at Sam Houston State University and Texas State University and the field’s first PhD at Texas State.
Thomas R. Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Teachers College Columbia University, likes the attention to remedial education, but thinks a remedial PhD is too narrow.
But he said that many people who do research on remedial education at his center at Teachers College didn’t earn doctorates in the field, nor do they work at centers that focus only on remedial education. In Bailey’s case, his PhD is in economics, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“It’s important that we think about developmental education in a broader context,” he said. “Many of the students we’ve labeled as remedial aren’t that different from the students we’ve said are college-ready.”
The demand for remedial education isn’t expected to diminish any time soon.