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REMEDIATION EXASPERATION: New York City, Wyoming, and Ohio Focus on College Students’ Needs for Remedial Courses

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“Our message to schools is clear: students need to be meeting a higher bar and doing more rigorous work if they are going to be ready for life after high school.”

Only 21.4 percent of freshmen who enter high school in New York City graduate from high school four years later ready to succeed in college and only 50.4 percent actually enroll in college, according to new data released by the New York City Department of Education last week.

“Our message to schools is clear: students need to be meeting a higher bar and doing more rigorous work if they are going to be ready for life after high school,” said New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott. “It’s important that our principals, teachers, students and families are on the same page in this effort and understand the goal is not just graduating, but graduating college and career ready.”

The data was part of the fifth annual progress reports for the city’s 495 high schools, transfer high schools, and young adult borough centers. The progress reports award letter grades to schools based on student progress toward graduation; performance on standardized tests and course work; student attendance; and parent, student, and teacher attitudes about schools. This year, for the first time, the reports also include data on how many students in each high school take and perform well in advanced courses, graduate ready for college, and enroll in a college after graduation.

According to the data, thirty-eight of the 353 schools with available data (11 percent) graduated 50 percent or more of its students college and career ready. On the other end of the spectrum, 151 out of 353 schools (43 percent) graduated less than 10 percent of its students ready for college or a career.

In discussing ways that the city could boost college readiness among its graduates, New York City Department of Education Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky told the New York Times that the tests by which students were measured needed to be better at assessing the skills students would need after graduation, like analytical writing, critical thinking, and problem solving. “One of the biggest barriers, right now, to real college readiness is that our state exams have not shifted to focus on college readiness yet,” he told the New York Daily News.

New York City is not the only locale relying on data to get a handle on how to better prepare students for success after high school. In Wyoming, a new study presented to the state legislature’s Joint Education Committee finds that more than half of the new students entering Wyoming community colleges are not prepared for college-level math and English courses. Specifically, it finds that 33 percent of community college students needed remedial math in the fall of 2006, 7 percent needed remedial English classes, and another 15.5 percent required remedial courses in both math and English.

At the University of Wyoming, 23 percent of entering students required remedial math. According to the Associated Press, trustees at the university are considering raising admission standards while also providing more support for new students in need of remediation.

Providing more support for students is one way to tackle remediation needs. An opposite response would be to eliminate remedial courses, something the Ohio university system is considering, according to the Hamilton Journal-News. The article notes that about 40 percent of college freshmen in Ohio need to take remedial courses because they are not ready for college-level work.

Under the plan, Ohio would end subsidies for “developmental” courses at most university main campuses. Regional and branch campuses, as well as community colleges will continue to receive state funding to support remedial courses. By shifting remedial courses away from universities and toward regional and community colleges where tuition costs are lower, proponents of the plan hope that it will save students and the state money.

“Remediation is very expensive at the college level and needs to be done in high school,” Kim Norris, spokesperson for Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro, who was quoted in the article. It notes that the regents are pushing for a tenth-grade assessment that would flag students who may need extra help before they graduate from high school.

In May, the Alliance for Excellent Education released an issue brief, “Saving Now and Saving Later: How High School Reform Can Reduce the Nation’s Wasted Remediation Dollars,” finding that remedial education—courses designed for postsecondary students on basic skills that they did not master in high school—costs the United States an estimated $5.6 billion.

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College Remediation

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