Unprepared in the Big Apple

New York City high schools are flooding community colleges with unprepared students. Eighty percent need remedial reading, writing or math — especially math — when they enroll, up from 71 percent a few years ago. “Faculty members have been transformed into de facto high school teachers,” complains the Village Voice.

The city’s community colleges are trying intensive math catch-up courses to improve abysmal success rates for remedial math students.

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  1. Could anything be a more damning indictment of the New York public school system than “Eighty percent need remedial reading, writing or math”? As the kids these days say, “epic fail”.

    That is not a sign of a bad school or a few bad teachers or a methodology in need of a tuneup or “accountability” or any of the other modern buzz words. That is a sign of complete, utter failure that requires a complete do-over for the whole system. A corporation that bad off would be abandoned by customers and stockholders and go straight to bankruptcy.

  2. I’d simply tell the students:

    I’m sorry, but you do NOT have the academic background needed to complete college level coursework. I would suggest learning the require skills via tutoring or in an adult education center, then come back.

    Studies have shown that students who need 2 or more courses in remedial education are unlikely to graduate with any certificate, associate’s or bachelors degree.

    IMO, a college (community, junior, or 4 year institution) is no place for students who need remediation. I would agree with Rob, it’s a damning indictment of the NY public education system when 80 percent (4 of every 5 admitted students) needs remediation.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      From the (several click-throughs) article:

      In fact, 80 percent of New York public school graduates who enrolled in City University of New York community colleges last fall still needed high school level instruction — also known as remediation — in reading, writing, and especially math.

      California is similar …




      In 2009, 58% of incoming Cal State (4-year universities!) freshmen needed at least one remedial class. It seems to be better in 2012, but still not good.


      At least 26% of University of California freshmen needed at least one remedial class (this is how I’m interpreting “unprepared for college-level”).

      • Stacy in NJ says:

        How the heck do they get accepted to 4-year schools but still need remediation? What are their SAT/ACT scores?

        • I would hate to think what they are. If they need remediation in math, I’d imagine a ACT score less than say 18 (national avg. for ACT composite is approximately 21). When I took the ACT, my math score was 28 or so, and I only had average grades in Algebra/Algebra II/Trig.

        • Mark Roulo says:

          Wiki has a page on Cal State:




          I think the data is a few years old, but note that a number of campuses have an *AVERAGE* SAT score for the incoming freshman class of around 900 (out of 1600):


          Cal State Bakersfield: 880
          Cal State Dominguez Hills: 890
          Cal State East Bay: 912
          Cal State Los Angeles: 880
          Cal State San Bernardino: 910


          This is post the 1995 re-centering …


          And for Bill, yes, these scores are roughly equivalent to an 18 or 19 on the ACT.

          • Stacy in NJ says:

            Then it relates to acceptance standards. Perhaps they shouldn’t be accepting students who are so poorly prepared.

            Next question: why are they accepting them?

          • Mark Roulo says:

            “Next question: why are they accepting them?”
            Non-asian minority students and poor students require remediation more than white/asian students and students from wealthier families. If we set the acceptance level for the SAT to something like, say, 1050, then the remediation rates would drop, but:
                a) non-asian minority students would be excluded even more than they are now, and
                b) poor students would also be impacted more than non-poor students.


            I don’t see a large political coalition forming around the idea of keeping more non-asian minority and poor kids out of state subsidized universities.


            A related question, though, is: Why does the UC system accepts any students that need remediation?

  3. Stacy,

    I’ve asked that question myself many times (why are colleges accepting so many unprepared students)? I posted on another article (No Math, No Job) a way to stop this issue, and that is by imposing surcharges for remedial coursework, so that a remedial course which costs 60 a credit hour goes to 120 a credit hour.

    Though for students who need this much remediation, they probably won’t make it past a full year in college.

  4. Mike in Texas says:

    Some Bloomberg’s policies of excessive testing, overcrowded schools, lack of teaching supplies and a puppet school board haven’t produced tremendous results? Let’s not forget the 2 totally unprepared school supts. he’s appointed.

    Looks like another “reformer” who has no idea what he’s doing!