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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

College without remediation

If remedial classes don’t help college students succeed — and there’s lots of evidence for that — what’s the alternative? California State University needs to develop better supports for poorly prepared students and help high schools improve academic rigor, writes Michael Kurlaender, professor of education policy at University of California Davis, in Education Next.

Academic Preparedness on 2015 NAEP Mathematics and Reading, Grade 12

“Only 30 percent of California 11th graders are deemed ready for college-level work in both mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA),” based on the state’s Common Core-aligned exam, he writes. “Another 30 percent meet standards in ELA but not in math, while 2 percent meet standards in math but not in ELA.” That leaves almost 40 percent of 11th graders who don’t meet either standard.

Test scores and high school grades correlate with college grades and persistence, he writes. However, students from low-poverty high schools are likely to be college-ready, even with a 2.5 GPA, while “even high-performing students are unlikely to be college ready” if they attend a high-poverty school.

Figure 1a: College Readiness in English and High School GPA in California Public Schools by School Composition of Socioeconomic Disadvantage

Figure 1b: College Readiness in Math and High School GPA in California Public Schools by School Composition of Socioeconomic Disadvantage

CSU is working with K-12 schools to improve college preparation, writes Kurlaender. He also advocates “greater innovation in first-year coursework for students with academic-preparation needs,” such as “stretch courses that offer additional academic scaffolding for students, smaller classes that maximize faculty-student interaction, or increased tutoring and mentoring.”

Sixty percent of community college students test into at least one remedial course, estimates a report by the Community College Research Center and MDRC. A third probably could succeed in a college-level course.

Researchers recommended using a mix of high school grades, test scores and other factors to decide whether students are ready for college work.

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