Standards Opinion

Remediation for High School Graduates: Why?

By Jill Berkowicz & Ann Myers — February 20, 2013 4 min read
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Too many of our high school graduates require remediation courses in college. Complete College America posted the report entitled “Core Principals for Transforming Remedial Education: A Joint Statement.” The report represents a joint undertaking by four organizations: The Charles A. Dana Center, the Education Commission of the States, Jobs for the Future and CCA. This report gives us cause to pause. Most of us have been oblivious to what has been happening in colleges. It adds a new dimension to the conversations about where the responsibility lies and opens new considerations about where some solutions may be found. “The numbers tell a dispiriting story. Half of all undergraduates and 70 percent of community college students take at least one remedial course. Too many of these students never overcome being placed into a remedial course. Only about a quarter of community college students who take a remedial course, graduate within eight years. In fact, most students who are referred to remedial education do not even complete the remedial sequence: One study found 46 percent of students completed the sequence in reading and only 33 percent completed it in math” (p.3).

It is reported that our school systems are graduating students who go to college require a high level of remediation. Over time, colleges have developed and incorporated a remediation system that allows students to be “admitted” but not really to collegiate level courses. The programs are designed to get those students college ready. It is exactly what we are charged to do.

The collegiate response enabled us, in a clinical sense, to send our graduates along to college. It kept our graduation reports looking good as our graduates went onto college. And it kept college enrollments up. There is enough blame for everyone to share and enough capacity and ingenuity for solutions, if we join together to see this is as K - 16 issue. The report continues, “Postsecondary leaders must work closely with K-12, adult basic education, and
 other training systems to reduce the need for remediation before students enroll in their institutions. Postsecondary institutions should leverage the Common Core State Standards by working with K-12 schools to improve the skills of their students before they graduate from high school. Early assessment of students in high school, using existing placement exams and eventually the Common Core college and career readiness assessments, which lead to customized academic skill development during the senior year, should be a priority for states” (p.12).

Since many of us are, in fact, part of a publically funded K-16 system, it is obvious that the vertical plan must work against the diminishing tide of literacy. In our February 14th blog post on literacy, Marilyn Jaeger-Adams was cited as saying that the English texts our seniors are working with are written with simpler language than that used in seventh-grade texts published previous to 1963. We have to take the opportunity to make the change. As texts diminished in their rigor, so did our students’ thinking skills and academic vocabulary. We have to make a change and all of us must be part of it. The colleges must work with us to define the standards of skills they believe freshman should have. We must backward map our higher standards from there and not waiver. We need to reach our parents and pre-schools to be sure our future students are being raised in print rich environments. As much bad press as the Common Core has received, it may very well be a beacon for us and help us return to deeper and more rigorous treatment of text in all subject areas. State Education Departments must decide how to narrow the scope of topics in order to allow teachers to work more deeply with text and develop thinking and understanding in their students. We must stop allowing our graduates to only take one rigorous math class in high school. College completion and future jobs require they have more. We need to give our teachers, all of them, the time to retool.

As school leaders we have reported how many of our graduates went to two and four year colleges. We have watched those rates increase. It has been a measure of our success, despite the charges against us. Now, we know there is more to the story. As leaders we must figure out how, in each of our districts and on each of our campuses, we can make new decisions. We need to reduce the numbers of our graduates who leave us for life and still need remediation.

www.completecollege.org - Core Principals for Transforming Remedial Education: A Joint Statement
Diagram posted with the permission of www.completecollege.org
Jaeger-Adams, Marilyn, (Winter 2010-2011). “Advancing Our Students’ Language and Literacy” American Educator, (3-12).

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