In the News: Colleges Remake Remedial Education by Going Back to High School

Troubled by high percentages of students who are not ready for credit-bearing work when they enter community college — and low graduation rates for students who enter needing remediation — Tennessee is experimenting with a different approach.

As Joseph Williams explains

Tennessee may have found the solution, however, by overhauling remediation math programs and installing corequisite education—using self-paced learning programs and enhanced classroom support systems, sometimes augmented by technology, to help struggling students transition to college-level work.

He explains

In the program, students who fall below college-level standards on math assessment tests in 11th grade are guided to remedial courses during their senior year in high school, which allows them to start their higher ed career ready for credit bearing coursework. Combining online and face-to-face instruction, students learn advanced math at their own pace, a measure of control vital to students who aren’t traditional learners or who have jobs or families. Teachers and tutors also work one-on-one with students who are struggling, offering extra help when it’s needed.

Community colleges in New York City are experimenting with a different approach — allowing students to skip over remedial math altogether. A randomized controlled trial was conducted at three CUNY schools.

Some entering students who ordinarily would have been assigned to a remedial elementary-algebra class were placed instead in a college-level statistics course and provided with extra academic support. We find that the students placed directly in college-level statistics did far better than their counterparts in remedial classes, even when students in remedial classes were also given extra support. They were more likely to pass their initial math course and, three semesters after the experiment, had completed more college credits overall. In short, our study suggests that many students consigned to remediation can pass credit-bearing quantitative courses right away.

— Education Next

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