No silver bullet for remedial woes

Reformers are transforming — sometimes eliminating — remedial education at community colleges, but fixing remedial ed will be “vastly more complex” than they think, argues Hunter R. Boylan, who runs the National Center for Developmental Education.

Virginia’s community college system raised success rates for unprepared students by lowering math demands for non-STEM majors. Carnegie’s Pathways reforms focus on statistics and quantitative reasoning rather than advanced algebra.

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  1. Miller Smith says:

    The best way to fix remedial education is to not have it at all. High schools should not graduate students that are not ready for regular freshman coursework and colleges and universities should not admit student that need remedial work.
    This one act would be a great motivator for public school systems to do the job they are paid to do. When a high school can’t send anyone to any college due to not doing its job then real reform will come quickly.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      That is a comforting thought. It is also almost certainly wrong. Entering college students need remedial education for two reasons:

      1) Their schools failed them. But this failure started well before high school. High schools can do only so much to change things.

      2) The students failed their schools. They enter the building uninterested in the material and unwilling to put forth the effort necessary to succeed.

      High school teachers are constantly trying to get students interested. Ed schools tell them that it is possible with the right techniques. They lie.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      The above analysis suggests that remedial courses won’t be very successful in getting entering students ready for college. That seems to be true.

      If you’re really motivated and not too far behind, it can work. Otherwise, it’s just staying in a dysfunctional relationship, when the best course is to break up and get on with your life.

  2. Virginia’s community college system raised success rates for unprepared students by lowering math demands for non-STEM majors.

    You don’t produce a better product by lowering standards (actually, only in the U.S. is that true), I doubt it is true in places like Singapore, Japan, Finland, Norway, etc.

    I’m just in favor of handing kids a high school diploma after 8th grade.

  3. What remedial education in college USED to be for, and is relatively successful at, is helping those who are somewhat rusty in skills (vets and others who are attending after a break) to catch up. It is NOT for those who shouldn’t have even been in high school, due to lack of math or ELA skills.

    • Linda,

      You’ve hit the nail squarely on the head. Remedial education used to be known as refresher work, for those students who graduated from high school, went to work for years, and went back to college seeking a degree (of course, they’ll need to review material they haven’t messed with in years).

      It should be a crime to admit totally unprepared students to any university/college or certificate program.

      These days, college isn’t about getting an education, but it’s a business like any other.