National Groups Call for Big Changes in Remedial Education

Katherine Mangan, Chronicle of Higher Education, December 13, 2012

Remedial courses meant to get underprepared students ready for college-level work are often not an on-ramp but a dead end, leaders of four national higher-education groups said on Wednesday, recommending sweeping changes in how such students are brought up to speed.

Students required to take a sequence of remedial, or developmental, courses before they can sign up for credit-bearing ones often get discouraged and drop out, and many would be better off in gateway courses, with extra support built in, according to the groups’ report, “Core Principles for Transforming Remedial Education: A Joint Statement.”

The report—by Complete College America, the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin, the Education Commission of the States, and Jobs for the Future—is based on studies by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College and other organizations that have concluded that the nation’s remedial-education system is broken.

More developmental students should be placed directly into full-credit college courses, the report recommends, accompanied by services such as mandatory tutoring and facilitated computer labs.

“Many less-prepared students can successfully complete college-level English and math courses that are the gateways to their programs of study on time in their first year when structured academic supports are built in,” Richard Kazis, senior vice president of Jobs for the Future, said in a written statement.


About half of the students whose placement-test scores now land them in remedial mathematics or English could have earned a C or better if they had enrolled directly in first-year courses, according to a recent study by the Community College Research Center.

But skeptics, including some faculty members who would have to integrate the extra support into their classes, worry that scrapping developmental education could set up students for failure in courses they simply aren’t ready for.

How students end up in remedial courses has attracted increasing scrutiny: Placement, the report notes, is usually based on the results of a single standardized test that students generally don’t prepare for or take seriously. {snip}

As a result, students who want to become firefighters or paramedics can get stalled on their fourth attempt at pre-algebra, Uri Treisman, director of the Dana Center, said in a call with reporters on Wednesday. “It’s time to remove the barriers we’ve put in the way of students’ hopes and plans.”

The groups called on governors, legislators, and higher-education leaders to create incentives that would allow for such an overhaul nationally. That would involve changing some state policies to give colleges more discretion in placing students.


Nationally, half of all undergraduates and 70 percent of community-college students take at least one remedial course, according to the report. And often that first course is as far as they go. Less than half of students referred to remedial courses complete the required sequence in math or reading. After eight years, only a quarter of community-college students who started a remedial course have earned a degree.

“The more courses you take, the more time you spend in college, the more life intervenes, and the more likely you are to drop out,” said Mr. Kazis, of Jobs for the Future.

Fewer than one in 10 students referred to three or more semesters of remedial math ended up completing the first-year college-level math course for which they were preparing, the studies behind the report found. For English, fewer than one in three students who were referred to that many remedial courses ended up completing the college-level course they were preparing for.



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  • A student who needs remedial classes will probably never truly be ready for college. Unless college is itself dumbed down, and we all know it is.

  • WmarkW

    Stop awarding admission points for contributing to “campus diversity,” and students will naturally matriculate to programs for which they’re prepared.

    • 48224

      I agree but…..colleges want the money and will let ANYONE in who qualifies for financial aid. Colleges spin this as having “given them a chance” but it is about the money, believe me.

  • The__Bobster

    Since most moolies that graduate from high school are only performing at the 8th grade level, college becomes high school for them. But how many colleges admit White 8th graders and then pay for their training?

  • Triarius

    Firstly, these people are remedial by European standards. So of course more third world people look remedial, when in fact they are probably average compared to their kind. You don’t expect a midget to dunk or a fat kid to win the 800m.

    Also, lawsuits, lawsuits, lawsuits. I have friends and family who are teachers at at all levels. Aside from being barred from putting minorities in the slow class, it is now illegal in most schools for disabled students to not be in regular classes.

    Now the teacher has to teach at a speed not to not only overwhelm black kids, but also kids with down syndrome or autism that cannot even speak or go to the bathroom without assistance.

  • jay11

    “Remedial courses meant to get underprepared students ready for college-level work…”
    Colleges are supposed to accept you if you can hack the work or at least show some potential if your high school gpa was low.
    The ‘social justice’ crowd melded with the ‘diversity’ crowd to create a perfect storm about 25 years ago. In their twisted logic they thought: “College educated equals big earning power, so the only way to uplift blacks and to get elite whites used to being around them, is to open the pipeline for ‘urban’ youth to college, even if standards needed to be lowerd to get in.
    Well, they lowered those standards, and then lowered them some more (and some more and some more and…) The quality of minority students also lowered in step over the last 30 years. Now the related hopes of Obama as a role model and the magic of charters schools and the ‘common core’ is currently in vogue.
    Obama isn’t doing much but watching his democratic hordes mop up the last remnants of white American resistance to the social justice paradise liberals have been foaming for since John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ song.
    Charter schools are a huge scam and the ‘common core’ is already flopping all over. Okay, so back to the drawing board…

    • Bon, From the Land of Babble


      Yes, I know they pick on you at school and they call you names, but you still have to go there.

      You’re the teacher!!!


  • Why not just call it “high school plus” and stop pretending.

    • alkoholika2010

      Why not call it what it really is: retarded adult babysitting. Of course, add to that instruction on how to game the system for maximum benefit.

      • Refugee

        This is why your brand of race realism, what have you, will never be popular. So many of you are plain snobs and little else.

  • Howard W. Campbell

    When I was in elementary school, we had one class of kids that were below the Forrest Gump IQ level. This was known as the “resource room”. There was one white kid in this group. Now, I suspect that she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck at some point. Her parents were at least of average (white) intelligence. It was considered uncool to pick on this girl since she was such an obvious dullard.

    I’m sure now that this type of arrangement would be illegal. Especially in an elementary school that was 60/40 W/B.However 96% of the students in this class were black. Compared to the elementary school that my oldest siblings attended, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had to dumb things down to accommodate the undertow. They attended all (or really) white schools almost to 12th grade. I am hard pressed to find much whiter schools for my kids that aren’t in rural Nebraska.

    I could see some remedial classes for someone who has been out of school for a while, but at what point do you say “enough is enough”.?

    “As a result, students who want to become firefighters or paramedics can get stalled on their fourth attempt at pre-algebra, Uri Treisman, director of the Dana Center, said in a call with reporters on Wednesday.“It’s time to remove the barriers we’ve put in the way of students’ hopes and plans.” My kids are in elementary school and I think they could get pre-algebra after 4 tries. If you can add, subtract, multiply & divide, the pre-algebra shouldn’t be that difficult. I guess it could be for someone who should be a field hand that we are trying to turn into a neurosurgeon. Maybe I don’t really want these people as first responders; heaven forbid the amount of damage that an AA firefighter can either cause or be unable to prevent because he is out of his league.

  • IstvanIN

    I have a 35 year old black women who works for me who is unable to put together a simple, declarative sentence. She is as dumb as a doorknob. She has a MSW. Tells you how much a college education is worth.

    • Stevib78

      And you hired her?

  • Nathanwartooth

    This has nothing to do with the article but I thought since this one had such low numbers for posts I would ask it here.

    Are there any forums out there for race realists? I love these comment sections and I think it would be very cool if Amren had a forums section so we could talk about things with other race realists. I’ve searched the internet and came back empty handed.

    I’m not talking about certain forums like the ones that bash a certain race or the ones that think that the chosen people hypnotize us with their mind beams. I would love a forum that has intelligent people from the Amren comments section post on it to have discussions.

    Talking to people who aren’t race realists isn’t as fun because there is this HUGE disconnect in everything they think. It’s like trying to talk about astronomy with someone who thinks the earth is the center of the universe. There is just this huge hole in their logic that makes it hard to have meaningful conversations with them.

    • elitist

      I have stopped posting on Amren – and am making an exception for you – because there are some positively crazed people here who want to rumble all the time, mostly about the Global Zionist Conspiracy to Destroy Humankind.

      There are too many very different types of needs being met here:

      some people just want to blow of steam, and don’t mind sounding silly or extreme, some are genuinely deranged, hate-filled weirdos, and many want a civil and informative discussion.

      The 3 groups should be segregated, and the 3rd one could use a forum like the one you mention.

      Even better would a network of face to face discussion groups. Many people would be afraid of coming out as race realists.

      I agree, people who refuse to notice the gargantuan differences in racial psychology that confront them daily are not fun to hang with, so I try to educate my friends, and lose a few in the process.

      Also: many people are closet race realists and need to be brought out of the closet.

  • APaige

    “barriers”? Allowing students a second chance (high school was first) was a helping hand. That is the liberal mind-set. They beg for help and lowering standards- that fails…just remove the standards?

  • Jeff

    Every year, another excuse, another sweeping reform, another system that will cure the achievement gap.

    All of these studies are wonderful but they’re all missing one small thing: evidence of effectiveness. It’s one snake oil after another.

    More developmental students should be placed directly into full-credit college courses, the report recommends, accompanied by services such as mandatory tutoring and facilitated computer labs.

    In other words, “students” who can’t complete college level work should be put into college courses and given assistants who will do the work for them.

    I thought we already had can’t-fail majors like education, sociology, and African American Studies. How could someone need help to pass those subjects?

    On a side note, it’s hilarious to me that the people studying education and sociology are mostly black, so you would think there would be a lot of blacks who are great at educating and making a wonderful society, but somehow black education and societies are both complete failures. Hmm. What does it matter, it’s only taxpayer money they’re spending on churning out these degrees, and they will be hired by taxpayers when they graduate.

    • OlderWoman

      I knew a black man who obtained a degree in sociology at some backwater Tennessee college. He was hired to be a counselor at a drug and alcohol rehab clinic. Three months into the job he was driving the van. He was intellectually dull and couldn’t make heads or tails of anything written on paper. He was also a perpetually horny gay guy, so I’d imagine he was ‘hitting on the patients’.

  • Dude where’s my country?

    > As a result, students who want to become firefighters or paramedics can
    > get stalled on their fourth attempt at pre-algebra

    This might sound “racist”, but any one who can’t handle pre-algebra shouldn’t be a firefighter or paramedic.

  • bigone4u

    The idea here is to grow the power of “big education” by creating yet another arm of the educational bureaucracy, jack up tuition to cover costs, and enslave the middle class to even more student loan debt. Despicable, but universities are immersed in corruption and political correctness that knows no sense of decency or boundaries. I was part of that corrupt industry for decades, so I know. I recall one Hispanic girl who failed remedial algebra 10 times. Is there something wrong with saying, “Young man (or young lady) you are not college material.” Yes, if you said it, you would be tarred and feathered with the “R word” (racist).

  • I’m going to have to go against the popular opinion on this one. I dropped out of college twice before the age of 21–I just wasn’t prepared for college work, academically, or emotionally. I got the opportunity to go to a community college a few years later and I did much better then, even though I was placed in elementary algebra, and had to slog my way through my math requirement. I graduated in May with an Associate of Arts, and even though I’ve learned that some people don’t consider an AA to be an achievement, I am still proud of my accomplishment.

    • Puggg

      You might be going against “popular opinion” or the demands of polite society, but you’re not going against me. We have to dump this notion that everyone has to go to college, and we also have to dump this notion that even those for whom college is right, they have to start at the age of 18.

    • George

      A four year degree from a school with high standards isn’t for everyone.

      Frankly, there is unfilled demand in the vocational trades, and one can earn a very good living, often with a trade that is recession-proof.

      Applying oneself and meeting one’s academic goal is *always* laudable, whether that goal is a GED or a PhD.

      My grandmother always wanted to go to university. At age 61, she registered. It took her 6 years, but she earned her B.A. in English & Religious Studies. Funnily enough, her pension was within 11 cents of her monthly student loan repayment. She’d dutifully save those 11 cents in a jar, and every six months or so would insist on taking my grandfather out for a coffee. Then for the next few weeks, my teetotalling grandmother would joke about how they drank away her pension.

  • I’m sure China and other countries that focus on excellence & achievement, rather than excuses, affirmative action and mediocre expectations of a PC USA embolden by the ‘compassionate’ left.

    The USA is and will continue to ‘die on the vine’.

  • Refugee

    Uhh, I had to take remedial arithmetic courses briefly in elementary school. I’m white and I’m no dullard or fool.

    This nitpicking and sort of snobbery is why I can only relate to you all just sooo much.

    • George

      There’s a difference between remedial work in elementary school, which is a chance to catch up to the mainstream performance level, and trying to fix years of sloth and neglect on the part of a student so that he or she can attend college.

      Between elementary and high school, I went to summer school for math. My grades were passing ‘C’s, just not ‘A’ work. The elementary school principal required it before he would sign off on my taking all advanced classes in grade IX. Remedial steps can be an effective part of the educational process, but…after multiple attempts and repeated failures, it’s not snobbery to suggest the ‘learner’ stop flogging an equine that has, unfortunately, gone to meet its Maker.

  • Mr America

    Everyone knows that an education from a HBCU is substandard. Look at all the unqualified black teachers that have been hired by school systems across the country, administrators also. There was a black woman who was the asst. principal at the high school in my town who was dumber than a box of rocks. She spoke poor English. Let the black kids off easy when it came to discipline. She was always crying racism. Guess what? She “graduated” from a HBCU.

  • GeneticsareDestiny

    “As a result, students who want to become firefighters or paramedics can get stalled on their fourth attempt at pre-algebra.”

    I am not certain if this is the national standard, but I took pre-algebra in 7th grade. I am not good at math, and tested into the first college-level math course (not remedial), College Algebra.

    I do not want to sound like an academic snob, since there is very little one can do to change one’s IQ, and IQ is the largest predictor of academic success. But if a person cannot do pre-algebra, even after four tries at it, they should not be in college. It’s simply not the right environment for them.

    These people would be far better off training for a trade that does not require significant math skills.

  • ageofknowledge

    The answer is MONEY. It doesn’t matter if the new college applicant is an ignoramus who can’t do math past the 8th grade level. Their mere presence ensures the tax money flows.