36% of college students take remedial class

More than 36 percent of first-year college students take at least one remedial class:  Students planning  vocational-technical majors are less likely to need remediation;  would-be education majors are more likely.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Some community colleges have redesigned basic-skill education to help low-skilled adults earn job credentials.

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  1. Genevieve says:

    I wonder if some of the difference between vocational/technical and other majors is related to what type of institution the student is at. The graph seems to be a combination of students at 2year and 4 year institutions. Wouldn’t vocational/technical students study primarily at 2 year institutions. Generally the expectations for math and writing are higher at 4 year institutions. Additionally, a lot of vocational programs are certificate or applied associates of sciences (AAS). The AAS seems to have fewer liberal arts and science requirements than an AS or AA.
    On the other hand, it seems like most education majors start at a 4 year institution (at least where I live).

  2. Mark Roulo says:

    I’m actually surprised that *only* 36% need remedial math or English.

    In 2008, the remediation rate for the Cal State system as a whole* was at least 47% (the ones needing math) and probably over 50% (once we include the ones needing English, but not math).


    -Mark Roulo

    * There is a *large* variation between the various campuses. Cal Poly has rates of 4% and 10% for math and English. Dominquez Hills is almost 80% for each

  3. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    How is this possible? I mean, really: who’s the SOB responsible for graduating students who can’t do basic math?

    I’m not being rhetorical. Let’s go to each high school and find the person responsible and fire their sorry, dishonest, incompetent ass. Let’s continue to fire these people each and every year until they stop graduating students who can’t read and write and add.

    Then let’s do it with the middle schools.

    Then the elementary schools.

    Fire, fire, fire, fire until SOMEONE agrees not to lie to the next level about how well their students are doing.

  4. Across community colleges, the rate is even higher: 58 percent of students need some remediation, according to a 2006 Achieving the Dream study of seven states. NELS:88 (a national survey) came up with the same figure. Developmental education students rarely earn degrees or other credentials. A significant redesign of remedial education—how it is organized, delivered, and taught—is required if any of the nation’s almost 1,200 community colleges are to achieve more than incremental progress in increasing student success. My organization, Jobs for the Future, is working with six states in the Developmental Education Initiative on enacting policies and capacity-building efforts that identify promising practices, test program outcomes, and disseminate proven models quickly and effectively. The website is deionline.org if you’d like to know more.

  5. There are many reasons why persons under the age of 25 cannot do basic math today, and the number one reason is that we have turned math into a ‘feel-good’ subject (instead of what it is, a discipline which takes many hours to master).

    These persons were doomed from the moment they entered elementary school when they turned 6, and were moved along from grade to grade without solid working knowledge of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, and percentages (which should all be mastered by the time the student reaches the 6th grade).

    I’ve run into persons who cannot figure out sales tax, have no idea how to figure out an appropriate tip (15-20%), have no idea what the cost of an item is after a ‘x’ percentage discount, and so on.

    The overuse of technology has caused many in society to lack what graduates 25 or more years ago considered ‘basic skills’ (and many of today’s employers say the same thing).

    In Detroit, it was recently reported that 47% of the persons living there were ‘functionally illiterate’ (now, how can any company consider doing business there when half of it’s residents cannot read well enough to fill out a job application)?

  6. the blunt description of remedial courses is “saddling students with high school debt”

  7. tim-10-ber says:

    @ Thinly Veiled…I have said countless times the only way to do this is to have a financial impact on the K-12 systems that graduate kids who can not do 12th grade level courses. The financial impact will lead to the firing of the incompetent teachers at all grade levels that are still “teaching”. Hopefully, this will eliminate the administrators at all levels that did not hold the teacher accountable and hold the kids back. The phony graduation rate of government schools in many, many districts is staggering…mine happens to be one of those districts…government education is all about attracting the most money for the district and doing the least amount of real educating…it shows in CC and 4 year institutions…yep, financial penalities and big ones to boot will do the trick…so will parents waking up to the fact of what is happening in their kid’s school and to their kids…

  8. “I’m not being rhetorical. Let’s go to each high school and find the person responsible and fire their sorry, dishonest, incompetent ass. Let’s continue to fire these people each and every year until they stop graduating students who can’t read and write and add.”

    I think you are beating the wrong horse here, Thinly Veiled.
    I see at least two issues here: 1) Why colleges accept the students who cannot do college work? Ah, they pay… 2) Fire the teacher… I doubt it will solve the problem. It is brought down to us… Schools are looked at by statistics of how many graduate, teachers are looked at by how many pass the class. If teachers were trying to be honest and properly strict, then way too many would be held back, and/or kicked out of school. High school work with what comes from middle school, middle schools get all that is passed from elementary. Teachers (In addition to all heart-warming bubble of soft skills etc) are “forced” to pass the kids along in majority of cases. We can’t be honest… we are not allowed to.

  9. Sean Mays says:

    Thinly Veiled:

    Exo’s hit the nail on the head. Nobody wants to hear that kids aren’t passing. Nobody wants to hear that their “special snowflake” is below average. We’re not allowed to have disparate impact, we’re not allowed to damage self-esteem. The problem starts WELL before high school. Please don’t fire the high school teachers. Ask why kids are coming to high school algebra and geometry counting on their fingers. Ask how kids got into “Honors” 9th grade English and don’t know what a noun is. WHY after reading Animal Farm they don’t know what anthropomorphism is.

    I’d like to see an analysis of remediation broken down by state – do states with true high stakes tests have lower remediation rates than states with a less strict testing regime. I suppose ONE answer would be to remove grading from the teachers hands. Have state or district end of course exams that determine grades. That’s a whole ‘nother can o’worms though.

    @tim-10-ber: Let’s be fair. Administrators have been known to alter grades. There was a thread on this blog about systematic changes in Detroit. I’ve heard tales told of administrators who “lean” on teachers who fail too many. I believe it was Dallas ISD who issued the proclomation that teachers failing more than 20% of their class would have to be put on a remediation plan start improving. Plenty of districts have policies like “no zeros”, “nothing below x%” (like 50 or even 60) and “infinite makeups”. They need to be on the block too.