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In an effort to reduce the need for remedial coursework in college, the Montgomery County, Md., schools and a community college are teaming up to test 10th graders and review their academic performance.

The suburban Washington school district and Montgomery College will administer the college's placement test in three pilot high schools this school year to diagnose students' readiness for college and strengthen high school instructional programs.

Nearly 30 percent of all graduates of the 110,000-student Montgomery County district attend the community college.

The proportion of students from the county requiring remedial instruction at the college has declined, but is still considered high. In 1994--the latest year for which data were available--44 percent of students needed remedial math instruction, down from 51 percent in 1992, and 22 percent needed help in reading, a decrease from 37 percent.

Confirming what has been termed a nationwide trend, a new National Center for Education Statistics study, meanwhile, has found widespread supply and demand for remedial coursework.

According to the study of two- and four-year institutions of higher education, more than three-fourths offered at least one remedial reading, writing, or mathematics course. The U.S. Department of Education survey, which was conducted in fall 1995, found a high number of participants as well: 29 percent of first-time freshmen had enrolled in at least one remedial course.

But the study did not show any radical increase in demand for such courses. About half the institutions reported that the number of students enrolled in remedial courses had stayed the same in the past five years, while 14 percent said enrollments had decreased.

"Remedial Education at Higher Education Institutions in Fall 1995," is available on the Internet at http://www.ed.gov/NCES/pubs/97584.html.

The New York City-based Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has announced that it will award the Western Governors' Association $500,000 to complete key tasks in the development of its proposed "virtual university." The grant will help pay for an Internet-based catalog and navigator, which students will use to search for course offerings.

Full start-up costs for the university, which will use technology to provide college courses and training to students nationwide, are estimated at $6 million to $10 million. (See "Western Governors Seek To Tap Technology for 'Virtual University,' ", July 10, 1996.)

—ANN BRADLEY abradley@epe.org
& JEANNE PONESSA jponessa@epe.org

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