More than 60 percent of Denver Public Schools graduates require remedial courses in college. Now Denver is providing free remedial math and English classes over the summer for collegebound graduates, reports the Denver Post.
The summer courses will cost DPS about $50,700. District officials said the program could save students and the state money in the long run.
KayLynn McAbee earned a 3.1 grade-point average in high school and was admitted to the University of Colorado-Pueblo. But she did poorly on placement tests. She signed up for summer remediation.
“I knew that if I took these classes that I would be better prepared for college, prepared to take on the workload and most likely finish college in four years, instead of the five years it would take if I had to take remedial classes,” McAbee said.
Students who get a C or higher during the summer won’t have the repeat the course at a Colorado university.
It’s sad that a B student isn’t prepared for college work.
Starting in 2014, most Florida community college students will be able to skip remediation — and placement tests – to start in college-level, for-credit courses, reports the Orlando Sentinel. In addition to the state’s 28 community colleges, the new policy applies to Florida A&M University, the only state university that offers remedial coursework.
“It is no longer a one-size-fits-all system,” said Randy Hanna, chancellor of the Division of Florida Colleges. “Our goal is to get people successfully out of developmental-ed courses and receiving a degree and moving on to a university or moving on to a job as soon as possible. This legislation will give us the flexibility that we need.”
Those who choose developmental education will have more options, including accelerated courses designed to get them quickly to the college level. Colleges also are supposed to add tutoring and lab support to help poorly prepared students pass for-credit classes.
To determine college readiness, counselors will consider work experience and high school grades, in addition to test scores. But recent Florida high school graduates and active-duty service members can enroll in college-level classes, ready or not.
Students may overestimate their abilities, fail and lose financial aid eligibility, said Karen Borglum, Valencia College’s assistant vice president for curriculum and articulation. Failing a class twice is expensive: Floridians have to pay the out-of-state rate — three times more — on their third try. ”Students are going to be expected to really understand the consequences of their choices,” Borglum said.
Ten percent of college-ready high school graduates don’t enroll in college and another 9 percent don’t make it to the second year, according to ACT’s 2013 Reality of College Readiness Report. As many as 43 percent of all ACT-tested 2011 graduates were not enrolled in college by fall 2012.
“Academic readiness is vital to college success, but other factors such as self-discipline, financial stress and effective educational planning can also have an impact,” said Steve Kappler, head of postsecondary strategy for ACT. “It’s important for students to find the right college, be aware of financial aid opportunities and ensure their major matches their personal interests, among other things.”
First-to-second-year retention rates for four-year colleges averaged 72.3 percent in 2008, down slightly from 1991. At the community college level, 55.7 percent of students returned for a second year in 2012, up slightly from the 2004 rate. The three-year persistence-to-degree rates was 25.5 percent in 2012, down from 38.8 percent in 1989.
Colleges and universities with higher-than-average retention rates were more likely to offer a comprehensive learning assistance center or reading, writing and math centers, earlier research found. In addition, these colleges had a program for first-generation students, more academic advisors and tutors, pre-enrollment financial aid advising, an academic skills diagnostic and advising integrated with career/life planning. In contradiction to recent trends, colleges with higher retention rates mandated remedial placement based on test scores, ACT found.
Student success depends on motivation as well as academic preparation. A new ETS test called SuccessNavigator claims to measure students’ readiness to show up for class, ask question and persevere, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Steven Robbins, director of research innovation at ETS, said the test can be used in tandem with conventional placement exams to find students with remedial needs who have the motivation and other non-academic tools for success in college – a suite of attributes some researchers have dubbed “grit.”
“It makes sense to try it because we know the traditional methods aren’t working,” said Melinda Mechur Karp, a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College.
Students take the 30-minute test online at a cost of $5 (to the college). It assesses their commitment, self-management and social support, as well as academic readiness. In addition to generating a report to a counselor, the student gets a “customized action plan” with advice on seeking out tutoring or careering counseling or improving their health and wellness.
City Colleges of Chicago, which is field-testing SuccessNavigator, may use it to identify remedial students who could move quickly to college-level courses, said Rasmus Lynnerup, vice chancellor for strategy and institutional intelligence. The test “allows us to have a personal relationship with students” as soon as they arrive, he said.
Santa Monica College used the test in its student success course, said Brenda Benson, dean of counseling and retention.
Instructors received classroom-level reports after students took the test. While not providing results for individual students, Benson said instructors were able to see how the class stacked up on about 15 measures, like social supports or time management skills. They could then tailor their instruction based on each group of students’ overall needs.
Faculty “found it really useful,” Benson said, adding that “students seem to love it.”
Community colleges, chronically short on support staff, may use the exam to make advising more efficient. I wonder if high schools will be interested as a way to focus students on improving their non-academic readiness for college.
Thirty-eight states are measuring 11th-graders college readiness, reports the Community College Research Center in Reshaping the College Transition. Some use state exams,while others use the ACT, SAT or community college placement tests. Even more states are expected to start testing when Common Core State Standards’ assessments are available.
Twenty-nine states are using catch-up courses or online tutorials to prevent students from landing in remedial education.
Most community college students aren’t ready for college or the workforce concludes a National Center on Education and the Economy study. Colleges have lowered standards to accommodate poorly prepared students, writes the NCEE’s Marc Tucker.
Very little writing at all is required in most programs. The writing that is required is of a very simply sort. Students, for example, are rarely required to argue a position logically and marshal data on behalf of that argument. The typical first year community college text is written at an 11th or 12th level (which one would think would be a year or two below the level of community college), but it turns out that most high school graduates cannot read with comprehension at that level, because the typical high school text is written at the 8th or 9th grade level. So our community college instructors prepare Power Point presentations to make sure that the students get the main points in the text.
Community college students don’t need to know high school math, but they do need middle school math, writes Tucker. Most never really learned it. Some community college vocational programs require math that’s not taught in high school, such as “mathematics modeling, and the ability to read and interpret schematic diagrams and logic diagrams of the sort required for computer programming.”
The typical textbook for the programs we looked at does require mathematics, but it seems that that mathematics is neither taught nor tested, presumably because the instructors do not think the students can do it.
Many 12th graders go to community college to do 8th- or 9th-grade work, Tucker writes. About a third of high school graduates aren’t ready for 8th-grade work. “Many of the rest, apparently, those who are admitted to credit-bearing courses at their community college, have only the shakiest command of 8th and 9th grade mathematics, reading and writing.”
Community college standards are clearly in the basement. They should be much higher. But, if we were to talk to the community college instructors about this, they would undoubtedly say that they are doing the best they can, that we should go and talk to the high school people, who are responsible for sending them students who have been very badly educated.
Raising community college standards would mean failing a huge percentage of students, the NCEE warns.
Tracking students through college and into the workforce is an idea whose time has come back, reports Inside Higher Ed. The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act revives a controversial idea opposed by privacy advocates and adds a federal “unit record” database administered by the Education Department.
Colleges would make information public about students’ salaries by major and program; graduation and remediation rates; success rates for students who receive a Pell Grant or veterans’ benefits; and other benchmarks not currently collected in such detail.
. . . A unit record database has long been the holy grail for many policy makers, who argue that collecting data at the federal level is the only way to get an accurate view of postsecondary education. But privacy advocates, private colleges and Congressional Republicans, all of whom oppose the creation of such a database, teamed up in opposition the last time the idea was proposed, by the Bush administration in 2005. Then, the opponents succeeded; the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act included a provision specifically forbidding the creation of a federal unit record data system.
Nearly every advocacy group, think tank, committee and panel has called for a federal unit record system, reports Inside Higher Ed. States are developing databases to track their own students, but the federal government’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System still ignores part-time students and counts many transfers as dropouts. As more young people “swirl” from one campus to another and yet another, IPEDS data is increasingly inadequate for policymakers.
Privacy is a phony issue, writes Reihan Salam on National Review. It’s easy to make the data anonymous. Students and their parents really do have a right to know the odds of success before they write the first tuition check, writes Salam. Reliable data on student outcomes would threaten colleges and universities that offer a substandard education and leave students in debt and without marketable skills.
Many Pell Grant recipients aren’t prepared for college and never complete a degree, writes Jane Shaw of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. Instead of denying Pell aid to remedial students, she proposes requiring evidence of readiness, such as SAT scores of at least 850 (verbal and math) and a high school GPA of at least 2.5 (between a C and a B).
“Not only would this save taxpayer money, it would provide a positive incentive for students to do better in school,” write researchers Jenna Ashley Robinson and Duke Cheston. “Students with very low high school academic performance are unlikely to graduate from college regardless of financial aid.”
According to the College Board, in order to have a 65 percent chance of getting a B- average in college, students should achieve about 1030 on the math and verbal SATs and earn a B average in high school (taking courses of at least “average” rigor). Using this benchmark, only 32 percent of students taking the SATs in 2009 were fully college-ready! On the other hand, to have a chance at a C average in college, they can get by with a 730 score on math and verbal, says the College Board.
But even getting a C average would be a struggle for these students, and the possibility of failure or dropping is out is all too likely.
Universities may already be designating remedial courses as college-level courses, even without the incentive of qualifying students for federal aid.
Pell Grant recipients don’t get a tuition break at many public and private universities, according to Stephen Burd, a senior policy analyst at the New America Foundation. Instead, universities compete for “the ’best and brightest’ students—and the wealthiest,” he writes in Undermining Pell: How Colleges Compete for Wealthy Students and Leave Low-Income Ones Behind.
Pell recipients are forced to take on more debt and work more hours, reducing their odds of completing a degree, Burd writes. Nearly two-thirds of private colleges and universities ask students from families making $30,000 or less to pay more than $15,000 a year for college.
In a few years, high school graduates in North Carolina will earn diplomas showing their readiness for university, community college or careers, reports the Raleigh News & Observer. Each seal requires a minimum 2.6 grade point average, basically a C+.
To earn the community college readiness seal, graduates must have completed Algebra II or integrated math III.
In February, the community college board decided graduates with a minimum 2.6 GPA can skip placement tests and start in college-level courses. The system’s research showed that 20 percent of students placed in remedial courses could have succeeded at the college level. High school grades are the best predictor of college success, the study concluded.
To earn the career readiness seal, students must
take four career/technical courses, score well on ACT’s WorkKeys exam, or have an industry-recognized credential, such a car repair certificate, Microsoft suite certification, or SAS programmer credentials.
Pell Grants should go only to college-ready students, proposes Mike Petrilli of the Fordham Foundation on Bloomberg View.
“A huge proportion” of the $40 billion annual federal investment in college aid is going to unprepared students, he asserts.
About two-thirds of low-income community-college students — and one-third of poor students at four-year colleges — need remedial (aka “developmental”) education, according to Complete College America, a nonprofit group. But it’s not working: Less than 10 percent of students who start in remedial education graduate from community college within three years, and just 35 percent of remedial students earn a four-year degree within six years.
Currently, Pell recipients in a “program of study” — they say they’re seeking a credential — can take remedial courses for one year before losing benefits. Petrilli suggests cutting off Pell aid for remedial students.
Ambitious, low-income high-school students would know that if they want to attend college at public expense (probably their only option), they would first need to become “college-ready.” This would provide a clear sign and incentives for them to work hard, take college-prep classes and raise their reading and math skills to the appropriate level.
Many low-income students wouldn’t go to college without Pell support for remedial courses, Petrilli concedes. That “cuts against the American tradition of open access, as well as second and third chances.”
But it’s not clear unprepared students benefit by enrolling in college remedial courses, he writes. Most drop out long before they complete a degree or certificate. (Most drop out before they take a single college-level class.) “Many would be more successful in job-training programs that don’t require college-level work (or would be better off simply gaining skills on the job).”
Eliminating remedial Pell would free up money to boost the maximum grant for needy, college-ready students.
Colleges could respond by giving credit for courses that used to be considered “remedial,” Petrilli writes.
Indeed they could. Placing poorly prepared students in credit-bearing courses, with extra help to learn basic skills, already is a trend due to the high failure rates in traditional remedial ed.
Remedial education costs millions of dollars a year with very poor results, said Stan Jones of Complete College America at the Education Writers Association conference last week at Stanford. “We pride ourselves on access, but access to what? Most never access a true college course.”
Of half a million new community college students in remedial education every year, “maybe 20 percent” will move on to college-level courses, said Carnegie’s Alicia Grunow. “We’re killing the aspirations of hundreds of thousands of students every year.”