Sunday, October 18, 2015

Remediation in College

If I were in charge of California's higher education system, no one who needs remedial math or English would attend one of our state universities.  Such people would attend our community colleges until they brought themselves up to university-level readiness:
Experts say the primary factors are a lack of collaboration between universities and high schools, inadequate information about the expectations of college and an increase in the emphasis on attending college for students who previously would have pursued another track.

“Until recently, there was no effort to try to align the (university and high school) systems,” said Michal Kurlaender, a professor at UC Davis who is leading a team researching college readiness. “No one felt it was necessarily important. We focused on minimum competency like the high school exit exam.”

Among all freshmen entering California State University, Sacramento, this fall, 53 percent have to take remedial courses because they couldn’t pass placement tests for college-level math, English or both.

Students who fail the math test are required to enroll in a remedial class, while those who fail the English exam are given the choice of a remedial or standard course, said university officials. All are required to take a state-mandated college preparation course over the summer. Students who do not pass their remedial class within a year are sent to community college.

Nelsen sees the high remediation rates as a hurdle to students graduating in four years, a major goal of his presidency. The high number of students playing catch-up has been a perennial problem for California State University campuses. Students who take remedial courses don’t earn college credit and take longer to graduate, resulting in higher costs for students and taxpayers. It also diverts resources from degree-oriented coursework and leaves fewer university seats available.
I would be concerned about more "collaboration" between universities and secondary schools. There's already too much focus on sending students to universities.  Industrial arts and other vocational programs are a mere shadow today of what they used to be and should be.  Yes, every student should have the opportunity to go to college--if they prepare themselves academically--but not every student needs to go to college.  More collaboration could exacerbate this trend of marking every student who doesn't go to college a failure.  Share the standards, let us know what college students need--and let us provide that education to students.  Those that master it will be ready to attend a university.  Those that don't, won't be.

Lest you think I'm being too harsh, I'll point out that there's an important, missing piece of data in the linked article, and that's what percentage of students do not pass their remedial classes, what percent don't pass and drop out, and what percent of who go back to community college don't make it back to a university and complete a degree.  I've read elsewhere that those numbers are fairly high.

Here's a chart (from the link above) showing how bad the problem is:
From another chart at the link I find that the school at which I teach has 40% of our students needing remediation--and I teach at a well-to-do, suburban, college-oriented high school.

Read more here:


Ellen K said...

I agree. If students cannot participate at the university level, they don't belong at the university. We are wasting millions of dollars on grants and scholarships putting kids into college programs for which they are not ready. Not every kid is meant for college.

Anonymous said...

Well, you and I operate from the premise that the purpose of college is education and/or learning. But ideologues are in charge, and they have an entirely different premise - namely, that the purpose of college is indoctrination. Hence the push to get every kid in college, and the tendency to drag things out as long as possible. Increasing the per-student revenue by as much as 50% (as would be the case for students on the six-year plan, for example) is incidentally not a bug, but rather a feature of the present system.