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EVALUATING THE CLASS OF 2005: One Third of Massachusetts College Students Need Remediation; Percentages Much Higher for Low-income and Minority Students

"Our graduates should enter college well prepared, not in need of remedial help. These local reports will give our schools the information they need to make sure this trend does not continue."

Of the approximately 57,000 students who graduated from Massachusetts high schools in 2005, more than 19,000 (33 percent) enrolled in a Massachusetts public postsecondary institution in Fall 2005. However, the Massachusetts School-to-College Report: High School Class of 2005, reveals that more than 7,000 of those students (37 percent) had to enroll in at least one remedial course during their first semester in college. The report, conducted jointly by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, represents the first-ever study detailing the performance of the state’s high school graduates who attend a public college or university in Massachusetts.

“This is data we’ve never had before, and will be vitally important as we move into this next phase of education reform,” said Jeffrey Nellhaus, Massachusetts’ acting education commissioner. “Our graduates should enter college well prepared, not in need of remedial help. These local reports will give our schools the information they need to make sure this trend does not continue.”

When examining the data, broken down by student subgroups, the report’s authors found that low-income and minority students were more likely to take at least one remedial course than their white peers. Specifically, one third of white and Asian and Pacific Islander students enrolled in a remedial course, versus 59 percent of African Americans and 58 percent of Hispanics. In addition, 52 percent of low-income students and 50 percent of limited English proficient students took at least one remedial course. The report also finds that students in community colleges (65 percent) are far more likely to need remediation than students who enroll at a state university (8 percent) or a state college (22 percent).

One possible indicator of whether a student will need remediation is his or her performance on the tenth grade Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test. As indicated in the table below, students who scored higher on the MCAS in English language arts (MCAS ELA) or math were less likely to enroll in remedial courses.


MCAS Mathematics Performance Level Percentage Enrolled in Developmental Math




Needs Improvement




MCAS ELA Performance Level                  Percentage Enrolled in Developmental Reading
Advanced 0%
Proficient 4%
Needs Improvement 28%


Using new database that links public K-12 and higher education data, the report’s authors were also able to determine which high schools do the best (and worst) jobs of preparing their graduates for college. The range varied dramatically, from Boston Latin, where only 1 percent of graduates who enrolled in college took a remedial course, to Springfield High School, where 100 percent of the school’s graduates who enrolled in college needed remediation.

“These reports will be critical as we move toward our goal of better aligning the work of our secondary school with that of our colleges,” saidPaul Reville, chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. “This information should prompt our secondary schools to re-evaluate whether they are properly preparing their graduates for college.”

The complete report, as well as a link to local school reports, is available at

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.