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3 Out of 5 Community College Entrants Need Remedial Courses

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3 Out of 5 Community College Entrants Need Remedial College Courses

By Linda Dobson

In an effort to remove the “negative connotation” of the words “remedial college courses,” the education bureaucracy now asks us to call remedial courses “developmental courses.” Of course, this little word play masks the sorry truth that should have parents and taxpayers up in arms: After the billions of dollars we all pay to put American children through 12 – 13 years of schooling, three out of five who enter community college still aren’t academically ready for the work.

Needs-remedial-college-coursesEducation Week shares the pathetic results in an article titled “Community Colleges Get Creative with Remedial Education” by Caralee Adams.

Three out of every five community college students need at least one remedial college course, and fewer than 25 percent of those students successfully earn a degree within eight years, according to the National Education Longitudinal Study.

“We really have to figure out how to get developmental education right, or any dream that we have of increasing the number of college graduates in this country or eliminating disparities across racial and ethnic groups—that dream is going to tank,” said Kay McClenney, the director of the Community College Survey of Student Engagement and an adjunct faculty member in the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin.

Pushed by federal expectations, tightening budgets, expanding enrollments, and what the foundation-supported Strong American Schools campaign estimated to be a $2 billion-and-rising annual cost for remedial college courses, community colleges have started experimenting with a range of strategies to address those numbers.

What will it take to fix the problem? When it comes to schooling, you know the answer: More money, of course!

“To get good at development education, you do need to place a high priority on it and make the investments that are requisite to having effective programs in place,” McClenney said.

Those investments can be found on campuses such as Zane State College in Ohio and Valencia College in Florida. An influx of $110 million from the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve developmental education at those colleges and others has begun to spur creative approaches to preparing students and keeping them on campus, including early assessments and dual-enrollment programs in high schools and individualized instruction at the college level.

File this gem under the “you’ve got to be kidding me” tab:

Several nonprofits and commissions are pushing for broader policies to get students college-ready before they leave high school.

Okay, read that sentence again – see, you read it right the first time. Apparently, educational policies are such that students who leave high school aren’t ready for college – probably not ready for a college online either – thank goodness we have nonprofits and commissions working on this angle of educational success.

Here’s a thought about remedial college courses from one of those nonprofits:

Early assessments could allow remediation to be done while students are still in high school.

Prepare students in high school for college! (I wonder how much more that’s going to cost.)

Remediating Remedial College Courses?

The following appears under the heading “Remediating Remediation” (I’m not kidding.)

Once students arrive on campus, their developmental education programs can be part of the problem.

Too often, developmental courses involve worksheets and drills that are “deadly dull,” said Tom Brock, the director of Young Adults and Postsecondary Education for the MDRC, a policy-research organization in Oakland, Calif. Remedial courses don’t earn credit toward a degree, and the low expectations, inadequate tracking, and lack of support can leave students feeling demoralized.

Ah, the old “If worksheets and drills didn’t work in high school, give them more worksheets and drills” approach.

Cost of Remedial College Courses

And, finally:

Campuses don’t want to do away with remedial education, but with tight budgets, some only want to offer courses to students who are “within striking distance,” said Mr. Collins of Jobs for the Future. “This is tricky territory,” he said. “Colleges are wondering: Is this an effective use of resources to allow someone with a 3rd grade reading level into a developmental education college course? Can they become college ready within a reasonable length of time?”

Obviously, there are many students with a 3rd grade reading level receiving high school diplomas. Isn’t this failure of the government school system the root of the problem and the need for remedial college courses?

If your kid wants to go to college, prepare him or her with homeschooling. You’ll all be very glad you did, and you can think of something else to do with your time besides taking remedial college courses.

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3 Responses to “3 Out of 5 Community College Entrants Need Remedial Courses”

  1. Ben Bennett says:

    Here's a shot at solving the problem from a business angle: When a new college entrant requires remediation, whatever scholarship or funding source is footing the bill should be allowed to go after the funds of the graduating high school to pay for remediation. The charge? Fraud. False representing. Certification fraud.

    Kind of like how insurance companies will pay to fix your wrecked car then go after the other guy's insurance company to recoup.

    Otherwise, everyone pays their own way until they are ready to learn with the big kids.

  2. Thanks, Ben. It sounds very common sensical, but how long will taxpayers sit still as they watch the local schools they are already supporting get hit with remedial bills and as taxpayers they have to pay them, too? It's literally been decades that schools have been handing out "diplomas the recipients can't read." Time to stop the charade!

  3. Pamela says:

    I began taking online literature courses through a community college, and was shocked at the poor writing skills of some of the other students. These students had all passed the prerequisite of English 1A, and weren't even considered remedial, but the work they were submitting was terribly sad. My 10 year old was finding errors in their papers. It did however make me much more confident in my decision to homeschool my children. If that is the "standard" of a high school education, I am pretty sure we'll be just fine on our own.

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