Rethinking remediation

California’s community colleges can’t improve completion rates significantly until the system learns how to teach basic skills quickly to unprepared students, concludes a new report. Most new students aren’t ready for college-level work.

It’s all on Community College Spotlight.

About Joanne


  1. You can’t. You can’t QUICKLY teach basic skills to 18 year olds who arrive way, way, way behind.

  2. Education – the acquisition of knowledge and skills expected of a HS graduate (let alone college readiness) – takes TIME. The kids at the top of the ability/motivation curve who enter with, and continue to acquire, rich cultural/social capital are capable of college readiness in 10 years or less. Average kids will need the 13 years and kids who enter school at the lower end of the ability/motivation curve and/or lack cultural/social capital are likely to need more time. The idea that a year or so of “remediation” can fix the problem is a fantasy. K-5 must be stronger, and so must MS.

  3. Even 18 year olds can quickly learn basic skills… as long as they are willing to make the effort necessary and have adequate instructors at their disposal. Unfortunately the two requirements rarely co-exist for any student.
    With few exceptions, students who have the motivation necessary to learn don’t end up in remedial programs.

  4. So kids who couldn’t learn algebra and geometry and reading in 12 years are supposed to pick it all up in two years?

    Or, maybe, don’t go to college.

  5. Some kids just aren’t mature enough to buckle down in the earlier years. The hope is that they mature a bit and the brain develops more. Things that were difficult like math start to make more sense and they are willing to spend a bit more time learning it.

  6. I doubt that maturity is the primary reason for lack of knowledge and skills, although it is certainly used often enough to justify weak performance, by boys in particular; “just not ready.” I think it’s more likely to be “needs explicit instruction in phonics, math etc” and in appropriate behavior, especially with at-risk kids. MS is weak on content, but k-5 is often worse. Trusting the spiral (math) means kids enter MS hopelessly behind the 8-ball.

  7. My oldest doesn’t retain math well although he he know his math tables. He will have to buckle down and spend some time just doing the work. No amount of instruction will help him until he just decides he is going to spend the time. My younger son cannot retain math facts or routines like division – however he seems to get the tougher problems and is willing to spend an hour every night doing the math. This is paying off for him at age 13.
    They have both been in very good schools with outstanding teachers.

    A friend of mine was in my algebra class freshman year in high school – he was a D student. By the time he got to college, he was math major. I asked him what was up in Algebra and he said that his brain just didn’t work at that point.

  8. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Why should I even bother to show up to comment when MG is on the case?