'B' is for badly prepared

Four out of five college students in remedial classes had a 3.0 average or better in high school, notes Michael Kirst’s College Puzzle blog, citing Diploma to Nowhere by Strong American Schools. Ninety-five percent said they did all or most of their assigned high school work. Eighty percent had assumed they were ready for college.

The cost of remediation for each student is estimated at $2,000 for two-year and $2,531 for four-year public colleges. These are the high range estimates, but seem low to me.

Colleges need to publicize how many students from local high schools end up in remedial classes. How many were “B” students?

About Joanne


  1. “Colleges need to publicize how many students from local high schools end up in remedial classes. How many were “B” students?”

    Why only local high schools?

  2. Exactly. You think it’s just the local schools?

    The UCs know exactly how many students they will have in remedial classes. What, exactly, do you think they use the SATs for? As I’ve said many times, the SAT and ACT may or may not predict “success” (if success means good grades), but they are dead on right about what students need remediation. That is their first purpose.

    As for why this is true, it’s because of a conspiracy between low income high schools and the universities themselves. The UCs in particular want to be able to ignore the law and admit as many black and Hispanic students as they can. But they can’t do this without cover. So what they’ve done is emphasize grades over test scores. Since the end of affirmative action, UCs weight grades as 75% of admissions. They know that at schools with a predominantly low income, low performance population, whether they are public or charter schools, the teachers can rig the grades and give the students the surface level of acceptability for a UC admit. This penalizes low income students who go to high quality suburban schools. I have found many students attending Sequoia, Woodside, and MA with solid skills (test scores in the high 500s, low 600s) and GPAs below 3.0 or even 2.0, as they flunk classes despite skills that would make them a valedictorian at a Compton or East Palo Alto school.

    This is also done at the Cal States. They are required to accept any student with a GPA above 2.5. Yet it’s pathetically easy for students at anything but a suburban public high school to get that GPA. All they have to do is show up.

    This is hardly rocket science, and it’s been known for years. That’s why remediation is the huge problem that it is, and it’s why all the studies about what the SAT/ACT do or don’t predict are such hypocritical BS. They are the only accurate assessor of the student’s college readiness. Grades are a complete fraud.

  3. Given that a significant percentage of college students these days are older and a number of years out of high school, I’d like to see a breakdown on those “B” average remedial students into traditional vs. non-traditional students.

    I got good grades in high school math and a good SAT-M score, but haven’t really used anything beyond simple arithmetic and very basic algebra since. If I hadn’t gone to college straight away & was going back now in my 30’s, I might very well need a refresher course in that subject.

  4. > Colleges need to publicize how many students from local high schools end up in remedial classes.

    Why? What’s in it for the college?

    Antagonizing the administrations and boards of those local high schools will gain those colleges what? Not a darned thing as far as I can determine so other then as a public service, why do it?

  5. It’s not supposed to serve the bureaucrats.  It’s supposed to serve the public, whose money is paying for this.

  6. My older students – ages 30-90 – do so much better than my younger students fresh out of high school or out only a few years, that I would not have believed it if I weren’t seeing it with my own eyes year after year.

    My young students oversleep, come to class unprepared in every possible way, drift in late, ask if they can leave early, take 30 minutes instead of 10 for break, bring McDonald’s meals to class and eat loudly in front of everyone (and we do NOT meet at mealtime!) and have to be told, often several times, to take the earphones out of their ears and put the iPod away. Ditto for the cell phone, and yes, I can see them still texting frantically under their desks, and they get hostile when told to put the cell phone AWAY. As in, out of sight! Turned off!

    My older students mean business. They are prepared. They bring all of their supplies. They turn off their phones before class starts. They do their eating out in the car before coming to the classroom. They get up in time to get here on time. They bring their own pencils and paper! They watch the clock during break and get back to the room on time. They ask questions. They NEVER sleep in class, even though they’re a lot more exhausted than the teens, what with taking care of their kids and their parents and working two or three part-time jobs because they’ve been laid off from the factory where they’ve worked for their entire adult lives. And they are plenty ticked off about the behavior of the teens in class, too. PLENTY mad.

    And so am I. Any solutions? I mean, other than clean up our high schools so the kids come to college actually knowing something, including how decent people behave themselves in a classroom situation? Because, you know, that would be too hard.

    Must. Not. Let. Self. Get. Bitter. . . .

  7. One of the few things Louisiana does right is issue an annual First Time Freshman Report that identifies by high school how many of their students that attend in state colleges/universities take remedial (the state euphemism is developmental) courses. The better colleges/universities know that having students taking remedial courses tarnishes the school’s reputation.

  8. –The better colleges/universities know that having students taking remedial courses tarnishes the school’s reputation.

    Why do you think it hurts the college’s reputation? And with whom? Let alone think that the colleges “know” that it does?

    The alumni still give money. That’s all that matters to colleges. The ones with endowments so large they don’t need to care anymore are doing fine, too.

  9. Charles R. Williams says:

    I doubt seriously that remediation costs public universities anything. The people who teach these courses get paid next to nothing. Somebody pays the universities tuition for these students. Often there is some kind of state money that flows with credit hours that students take.

    In a typical public university, the loss of thousands of remedial students would be a financial catastrophe.

    The real scandal here is universities pulling out all the stops to retain students who are unsuited to higher education. Students who will owe tens of thousands of dollars are getting worthless degrees and supporting a vast academic overhead.

    A typical 3 hour remedial math class will have 35 students and the instructor will get $2400. Tuition at $250 per credit hour is $26,000. The money is supporting the bureaucracy and all kinds of low-value added academic programs.

  10. Miller Smith says:

    Hi again folks! I would love to see the commentary on this mandatory grading system for all science classes in Prince George’s County Public Schools, MD.

    The following items must be graded based on these criteria: On time, complete, good faith effort. They are:
    20% Classwork
    15% Homework
    20% labs and activities
    20% Warm Ups
    As you can see, this adds up to 75%. That’s right! A child can turn in complete, on time, and good faith effort work and never take a test or quiz and get a solid ‘C’! The work at no time can be graded for being correct. A teacher who grades spelling and grammar in the science class will be raked over the coals by admin and a letter of reprimand ends up in many teacher’s files for grading such things.

    Now that leaves tests and quizzes.

    15% Tests
    10% Quizzes

    The tests and quizzes are provided by the system and a child who answers RANDOMLY will get 25% on average answering this way. That means on average randomly answering tests and quizzes will “earn” the student 3.5% and 2.5% for the test and quiz categories respectively.

    And now the grade total is 81.25%…a ‘B’! That 1.25% over the B- will take care of the times random answering is less than 25%.

    The Chemistry Department of University of Maryland, College Park held a meeting with county chemistry teachers three years ago to complain that the students that entered their classes “don’t know any chemistry.” Our response was, “Duh!” We then showed those wonderfully angry professors the state curriculum guide that had the MOLE concept totally removed (anyone reading this who took chemistry knows that the MOLE concept is CENTRAL to chemistry). Those professors have never wanted to talk to us again.

    This is what is going on in your major urban schools all across the county.

  11. “My older students – ages 30-90 – do so much better than my younger students fresh out of high school or out only a few years, that I would not have believed it if I weren’t seeing it with my own eyes year after year.”

    Absolutely. In fact, this is such a common topic in faculty lounges, and with everybody chiming in in unison, that I suspect if you did actual research, you’d find that non-traditional students (who for some odd reason tend to get the nasty treatment on edublogs) are notably better students than spoiled little Johnny straight out of high school who wants to do a special project because he couldn’t be bothered to study for the midterm.

    And Mr. Williams is mostly right, except for this:

    “The real scandal here is universities pulling out all the stops to retain students who are unsuited to higher education.”

    Actually, the real scandal is that universities bend over backwards to get these students, knowing that they will nearly all drop out, and don’t care if they do or not. That’s the dirty little secret of university “diversity” programs, well, not secret on campus, but rarely mentioned elsewhere. I’m not saying universities should set up remedial high schools, in essence, and hold these students’ hands and give them special treatment. I am saying that the way university bureaucrats solicit these students, then watch them drop out, is disgusting.

  12. Ninety-five percent said they did all or most of their assigned high school work.

    Even if this is not true – and I am always a bit skeptical of evidence based on self-reporting – it still shows that the work that many high school classes give students is not resulting in an understanding of the material that is deep enough to stay with them.

    I suppose I am somewhat concerned about the idea that students successfully complete college preparatory programs and are not prepared for college. However, I am more concerned about the apparent disconnect between the work required in the courses and the amount of learning going on. IMO, doing the work should lead to learning the material, which should lead to success on an assessment.

  13. Catch Thirty-Thr33 says:

    Interesting. In TX, we have the TASP test (or at least when I first went to college) for entrance into any public-funded college or university in TX. Three sections, divided into reading, writing, and math. I blew away the first two but passed math, though gettign such a low score that I wound up in remediation. I could read and write perfectly well enough to get into college but math was a different story. So I stuck out my remedial sentence and moved on to College Algebra, where my math studies promptly stopped.

  14. We’re just a generation or two now from the U.S. losing its dominant role in world affairs, as other countries who now value education and hard work (as the U.S. once did) take over.

    Think I’m kidding? We already answer to the whims of China and OPEC, as we are dependent on others for our oil and we’ve lost our manufacturing base. Soon India (technology), Brazil (food), and Russia (retaking its classic Cold War role) will do the same.

    How bad it will get will depend in no small part on how badly the U.S. wants to fix its anti-intellecutal culture, and completely overhaul its K-12 education system.

    Otherwise, in the long run we become beggars to our own demise…

  15. I wasn’t trying to badmouth non-traditional college students; I was merely pointing out that they may have done fine in their high school classes but still need remedial work if they’ve forgotten the subject during the intervening years. This need for remediation doesn’t reflect on their intelligence or the quality of their high schools but rather the “use it or lose it” nature of our brains. If someone’s been out of school 10, 15, 20+ years and has not used higher math skills during this time, it’s going to be a big challenge for him/her to pass a college placement exam.

  16. Catch Thirty-Three says:

    Really, Wolf? WE answer to China and OPEC? If this were remotely true, concerning China, then why do we still have military bases in South Korea and Japan, and why are Vietnamese officers coming here for schooling in military matters? Hey, I am ALL for a weary eye concerning China, but irrational, baseless Sinophobia does no one any good. As for OPEC…they are (and have been) one step short of being utterly powerless; witness the bursting of the oil bubble.

    We’ve lost our manufacturing base??? How do you figure? People come in here from all over the world asking us to make stuff for them. Witness the south side of San Antonio. Or Boeing. I could go on and on.

    Some time ago, I was taken to task by a poster who could not believe that I would insist that citizens get firmly grounded in geography and world affairs. Your post makes my point.

  17. I’m not being xenophobic, or talking about irrational fears like a literal invasion of the U.S. by China. But when a great deal of the products Americans buy are manufactured in China, and China owns 20% of the U.S. National Debt in U.S. Treasury bonds – bonds from which the money the U.S. government gets from them are used heavily to fund much of what the U.S. government does, it’s a recipe for a future disaster. What happens when China, or all foreign governments, for that matter – almost 45% of the U.S. National Debt is foreign-owned – decide to stop buying U.S. Treasury bonds? A huge source of borrowed income will dry up. And what will dry up with it? Add to that the fact that when the bonds mature, these foreign governments can ask “Where’s our money?”

    You can’t tell me that this situation isn’t to China’s advantage. China has several options to put the hurt down on the U.S. right now. Would it hurt them too if they did? Of course. But that doesn’t mean they won’t decide later that it’s worth the self-inflicted pain to hurt the U.S. if they decide later that we’re antagonizing them politically or hurting them economically.

    Also consider that the downward spiralling the U.S. Economy has taken in the last several months – and the U.S. Government’s / Federal Reserve’s attempts to keep the economy from collapsing – has sent the U.S. National Debt over $10 trilion now. Many of the countries holding U.S. Treasury bonds are starting to worry that our National Debt has spiralled out of control to the point that the U.S. may be too risky a place to invest money right now.

    As for OPEC, regardless of how oil prices rise or fall… Those countries still have the majority of the world’s oil under their control.

    So, I suppose I misspoke by implying that we literally go to them with hat in hand, begging for manufactured goods and oil – but the fact that they’re meeting us on an even playing field politically and economically says something in and of itself.

  18. Catch Thirty-Thr33 says:

    Wolf 359: to your first paragraph; I have been writing Congress for months and years looking for a Balanced Budget Amendment. Where are you on this? Too many people are content to whine, whine, and whine about the national debt without any willingness whatsoever to do anything about it. Until more people join me in getting off their a**es and wanting to do something about it, we deserve as much c**p as we can possibly handle.

    The day foreigners stop buying U.S. treasuries is the day we stop being the world’s most vibrant, dynamic, and most ruthlessly efficient economy.

    Have you been to China? I have. Trust me, your intense, ovwerwhelming FEAR of China is only justified to an extent. If this country served at China’s beck and call as you insist it does, then we shouldn’t have anyone in Korea, much less 30,000 troops; nor should we have a soul in Japan. But yet, all of that is happening. Not to mention the work that our military does with countries near of adjacent to China – who have much more to fear from China than you do. Yet the Chinese don’t lift a finger.

    The truth is that China, while it has made tremendous progress, has big, big problems in front of it. People don’t own their own land there, especially in rural areas than comprise 80% of the population of the country. Sure, Beijing looked GREAT during the Olympics, didn’t it? But the countryside is a place of grinding poverty, and Beijing is always on the edge of becoming a massive slum due to the huge numbers of people waiting to get there. It is always one step away from looking like a Third World capital.

    As for your third paragraph – recent events contradict you. People here and elsewhere are paying EXTRA to get into U.S. treasuries. Sure, OPEC may have had the power to set oil prices once upon a time, but now, oil speculators (who have a legitimate role to fill in markets) have had more impact than OPEC has had. Such is the way with bubbles.

    And so OPEC has the majority of the world’s oil under their control. So what? Did you know that Iran of all places is the #2 importer of gasoline? Did you know that without refineries in the Carribbean and the southern U.S., that Venezuela has no market for its heavy, sour crude, because no other areas have the refineries capable of refining it? And who is screwing who? If the price of oil goes up too high – or sinks too low – they are in a world of hurt, as many of the OPEC countries are oil-driven with very little in the way of a diversified economy.

    And yet again you whine that we have to “(beg) for manufactured goods”. This comes to a great shock to one (me) who has traveled much of the world in recent years on aircraft manufactured in facilities in WA, who drives a truck manufactured in MI, who is using a computer built by a TX company (admittedly with foreign components)…and on and on and on. Maybe you are one of those shrieking populists who will NEVER EVER be HAPPY until the United States is manufacturing every single thing imaginable?