Remedial ed: Is it a failure?

Reformers want colleges to abandon remedial classes, instead placing poorly prepared students in college-level classes with extra tutoring, labs and other forms of support.  Others say remedial education works better than people think — and the problem isn’t the classes but the students.

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  1. Remedial classes shouldn’t be taught at universities, and students who need remedial work shouldn’t be at universities. That’s what JC’s and community colleges are for.

    • Even better – bring back night school at the high schools, and leave CC’s to those with at least 10th-grade real knowledge and skills.

  2. I’d agree, a University (which includes Junior Colleges, Community Colleges, etc) have no business providing remedial education. If a student cannot master at least 18-24 on the ACT (Composite score), they have absolutely no business being enrolled at a college of any time.

    Night Schools, Tutors, and hours spent at the library would be the better option for students who are supposedly high school graduates (not certificate of completion/attendance holders) or GED students (assuming they can do well enough on english and math placement exams to actually be admitted).

    My definition of ‘well enough’ is a solid knowledge of algebra and knowing english well enough to place into at least English 101 (but that’s me).

    • Genevieve says:

      I agree that a 4 year university should not offer remedial education.
      However, I disagree that community colleges shouldn’t. Our local community college offers GED prep, ESL, high school tech programs at special career academies, and I believe a high school completion program. The college is already heavily involved in things that are outside of normal college. They seem to do a pretty decent job with these other programs.
      Additionally, they pay their adjuncts much less than public schools and the full time benefits are less than K-12 (salaries seem to be similar). It seems as though it is cheaper to offer classes through the community college than K-12 system. The community colleges also have a fair amount of flexibility in who they hire.

      • Yeah. Remedial ed is a very natural part of community college. Heck, they do stained glass classes and big city outings to musicals–doing remedial math or English is not too much to ask.

  3. palisadesk says:

    Sounds like you could have entitled this post “Full Inclusion Goes to College.”

    I confidently predict it will work as well there as it does in K-12.

    • Yeah, it does sound nightmarish for the adjuncts who will be on the receiving end of this experiment. Why not just abandon all prerequisites or course numbering while we’re at it?

  4. By the way, I believe that something like the approach that these people want has already been tried in Washington State community colleges for math classes with math labs. As I understand how it worked, students were supposed to work independently at their own pace and then come in and ask instructors questions when they had problems. You could have a huge range of levels in the same class, using this system. As it turned out, that environment was very problematic and there was a very low success rate. A lot of students just fail to progress in that unstructured environment, because there’s no peer element carrying them forward with their classmates. (Community college students often have very busy grown up lives, so any at-your-pace learning risks being permanently back-burnered.) I believe at least some WA community colleges have since moved back to more conventional teacher-led, skill-grouped math classes.

    A math lab is a relatively intelligent way to run a multilevel group (although as I mentioned, it didn’t work well in at least some WA community colleges). I’m afraid that what these people have in mind in something more like K-12 differentiated ed, and I think that will prove even more of a disaster in the college setting where so many students aren’t even there much of the time. This is begging for either 1) a revolt by instructors, with massive flunkings or 2) a total collapse in grading standards, pushing the problem on to the next level.

    • After we moved to MN, my incoming freshman daughter took a math class a CC , in order to have better alignment with a different honors/AP math sequence than her MD HS had, and it was a similar math lab format. She whipped through pretty easily, but a number of the other kids were struggling. I’m not sure how available the instructor was, but my DD fielded lots of questions. It seemed to be a more successful format for those kids who have the ability to succeed in most formats – quelle shock