Giving Compass’ Take:
• States are still trying to grapple with whether or not remedial education courses in higher ed are helping students pass or hindering success.
• What are effective programs that can potentially alter student failure rates? What other research needs to happen?
• Learn more about college efforts aimed at reshaping remedial education.
Community colleges and nonselective universities that enroll everyone are at a crossroads. Helping less-prepared students make the jump to college-level work is a big part of their mission. In recent history, roughly half of first-year college students have been sent to remedial classes in math, English or both, according a 2016 Center for American Progress report.
At the same time, remedial classes have been a giant bottleneck for students in getting their college degrees. For some, remedial requirements are an expensive waste of time that they don’t need. For others, they become a trap: Unable to progress to college-credit courses, many get discouraged and drop out, often with debt.
Policymakers have been trying to fix the system. Florida made remedial classes optional in 2014, letting students decide for themselves whether to take them. California took the bold step of ending required remedial classes in its community college system in 2018, allowing most students who had passed their high school classes to start with college-credit classes.
There are things we do know. In the places that are sending more students directly to college courses, bypassing remedial education, pass rates have fallen a bit, by a few percentage points, but not a lot. Roughly speaking, 60 percent of California college students are still passing introductory college math and English classes, according to an October 2019 report by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).
But a new Florida study published in November 2019 suggests that not all placement tests should be scrapped. Researchers calculated that the state would have maximized the number of students passing college-level courses and minimized the number of students failing these courses if colleges had simply lowered the threshold score required on the placement tests. But using high school grades alone as a guide for who should proceed to college classes and who should take remedial classes led to lower pass rates and higher failure rates.
Read the full article about remedial education by Jill Barshay at The Hechinger Report.
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