Phi Beta Cons

Another Try at Remediation

If college students need remedial work, it should be done at community colleges. So it’s good to see those colleges try to improve their remediation. But how successful can it be?

One new example is an experiment conducted by the community colleges of Tennessee and described in Inside Higher Ed. Instead of having unprepared students take a semester-long non-credit remedial course in math or language (the usual approach) before they can take most introductory courses, they take the for-credit introductory course along with a “co-requisite” remedial course.

Thus, in 2015, 51 percent of the students passed the introductory math course (statistics), compared with only 12.3 percent when they had to go through two hoops – the non-credit remedial class and the statistics class after that. In writing, 58.7 percent of the students passed, compared with 30.9 percent under the traditional arrangement (non-credit course followed by a college-credit course).

So this is progress. But the schools had to provide two courses at one time for the unprepared students, which was costly. The greater efficiency (fewer dropouts) made up for those costs, say those who studied the program. However, (as one of the Inside Higher Ed commenters wondered), how will they do in the next course, when they don’t have the academic remediation class to rely on?

The North Carolina Community College System is also experimenting. There, one active proposal is to move community college remediation to the high schools. Now that’s getting closer to the source of the problem.

Jane S. ShawJane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...


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