Remedial failure: Who’s to blame?

Eighty percent of students starting community college in California take at least one remedial course, according to a new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) report.

Remediation “fails” students, according to the report. Only 16 percent will earn a two-year degree in six years; 24 percent transfer to a four-year college or university.

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Math is the greatest barrier: 65 percent of students are assigned to “developmental” math: Most start at least two levels below the college level. Only about 27 percent of remedial  math students go on to complete a college math course with a grade of C or better.

In addition, 54 percent enroll in “developmental” English. Less than half will pass a college-level English class.

Students earn no credit, since they’re not doing college-level work. For those who stick with it — about half do not — it takes a year or more.

Most of the state’s community colleges are trying alternatives, such as aligning remedial courses with students’ programs of study or compressing two-semester sequences into a single semester, reports the PPIC. (I think alignment means letting students with un-mathy majors take statistics instead of algebra.)

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Florida’s state colleges and universities let students skip remediation, even if their placement scores are low, if they think they can handle college-level courses. Colleges have added online labs and tutoring to help.

Perhaps all colleges should go “Full Florida,” writes Matt Reed, who blogged as “community college dean,” in Inside Higher Ed.

Remedial enrollments dropped by half, reports the Sun-Sentinel. Pass rates in entry-level college classes dropped slightly or held steady.

“Pass rates in developmental classes increased significantly,” Reed’s colleagues tell him. They think it’s because students are there by choice.

There’s something fundamentally broken about developmental education . . . Forcing students who have had bad experiences in a given subject to start by re-taking material they’ve had before, on their own dime, with no credit towards graduation, is a motivation-killer.

Most students who earned A’s and B’s in high school require remedial help in community college, according to a survey of 70,000 community-college students. Forty percent of A students and 60 percent of B students were unprepared for college work in math, English or both.

Less than a third of community college students earned a two-year degree after six years, reports the National Student Clearinghouse. One in 10 complete a four-year degree.

‘Pre-medial’ ed moves to 12th grade

“Pre-medial education” — getting students caught up in reading, writing and math skills before college — is spreading, reports Ed Week.

Way too many students pass classes — often with “college prep” labels — then place into remedial classes at community college or a not-very-selective university. Pre-mediation moves that catch-up work to 11th or 12th grade.

At Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Cambridge, Mass., juniors and seniors with marginal grades and test scores are given a community college placement test. Those who fail can improve their skills through JFYNet’s personalized program combining online and in-person instruction.

In four years, the intervention has cut remedial course-taking by nearly half and saved students $1 million in college costs, according to Gary Kaplan, the organization’s executive director. The intervention costs about $240 per student, per class.

“Do it in high school instead of waiting until they’ve graduated from high school and then suddenly they are hit with bucket of cold water in college,” said Kaplan. “It’s pretty simple, but very effective. If you know that the skills are, teach those skills”

Nearly two-thirds of high school graduates go directly to college, yet only about one-third are college-ready, says Fordham President Michael Petrilli. “The notion that there is this group of young people that go to college and only then are told they are not ready is just devastating.”

“Pre-medial education.” I think we used to call it “education.”

Remedial classes: the end is closer

Many readers will remember Joanne’s post some time back about a proposal to end remedial classes at community colleges that was working its way through the legislature.

Well, that bill has now passed both houses of the CT legislature.  Connecticut is that much closer to one of the most bizarre things I’ve heard of in a while.

What I wanted to focus on today, though, was two quotes from from the most recent news article which I think perfectly set forth the ridiculousness of the discussions on this issue.


Bye, the co-chair of the General Assembly’s Joint Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee, said she came to support to measure after hearing that some students could pass high school classes and be placed in remedial college courses after failing to do well on college placement tests.

Let me ask a hypothetical question.  Let’s say you’ve got a bakery.  There’s a guy who mixes the dough, a guy who kneads it, and a guy who rolls and cuts it.  You notice that the guy who rolls and cuts it is working more slowly than you’d like.  So you ask him, “What’s going on?”  He looks at you and shrugs.  “I try to roll it, but it’s not ready to be rolled.  We were getting thin, hard rolls instead of fluffy, scrumptious rolls.  So I’m doing a little kneading on each batch before I start rolling.”

In such a hypothetical situation, does it make sense to tell your roller that what he needs to do is stop kneading, and incorporate more kneading into his rolling?

Maybe instead you kick the kneader in the pants and say, “Do your damn job and stop telling him the dough is ready when it’s not.”


Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Lakeville, said students who take remedial courses incur debt and do not have anything to show for it. “At the end of day (these students) are walking out the door without certificate or degree,” she said.

Hmmm.  What exactly are you supposed to get for taking and passing a remedial course, other than the knowledge and skills that you’re already supposed to possess?

I get the feeling that the Honorable Roberta Willis doesn’t quite understand what remedial means.  It doesn’t mean building new things or making advances.  It means fixing problems… getting back to (what should be) the status quo.

If I pay $100 for a hard drive, then I break it, and I pay $50 to get it fixed (laughable, I know), I don’t “get” anything for my $50 that I didn’t have already.  I don’t get one-and-a-half hard drives.  I just get the one hard drive that I paid $100 for.

When you take remedial classes, you’re not paying to get a degree.  You’re paying to remedy your ignorance — ignorance which makes you unprepared for handling college-level coursework.

If we have to give students something in return for their remedial efforts, maybe we could give them a sticker to put on their high school diploma that says something like, “And this is actually worth something now.”

There are two causes for “remedial problems” in college.

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$2 billion for remedial ed — and it doesn’t work

Remedial education costs community colleges $2 billion a year — and only a quarter of students go on to earn a credential. Colleges know it’s broke, but not how to fix it.

Colorado community colleges have improved success rates for remedial students. Unfortunately, more high school graduates require remediation.