More Colleges Scrap Remedial Classes

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California State University campuses will no longer require incoming freshmen to take placement tests in English and math or enroll in noncredit remedial courses, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The change, to take effect fall 2018, is part of a trend away from noncredit remedial courses, which critics say frustrate students and lead many to drop out. This is one case in which California isn’t leading the nation. Tennessee, among other states, have already taken steps to get rid of traditional remedial courses while creating other ways to support students who aren’t ready for college-level work.

In 2010, as part of Tennessee’s Complete College Tennessee Act, remedial and developmental education was to be provided only by community colleges and not universities as of July 2012. Then, in 2015, community colleges eliminated traditional remediation in favor of “co-requisite remediation,” which allows students to enroll in introductory math and English classes while receiving support services, including counseling, computer lab help and special supplementary classes. By allowing students to start acquiring college credit right away, schools hope to keep them in school and boost graduation rates.

Traditional remedial classes offered in the past cost the same as others but didn’t allow students to start working toward a degree. Such classes send a devastating message to new college students, especially if they’re the first in their family to pursue a degree, Tristan Denley, then the vice president of academic affairs for the Tennessee Board of Regents, told PBS Newshour in 2015.

“Many of those students, deep down, might not have been sure they were college material themselves, before you know it it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said.

Around the time of the transition in 2015, more than 70 percent of Tennessee students entering two-year colleges needed remediation, according to the Board of Regents. The percentage breakdown was: 90.9 percent African American, 76.2 percent Hispanic, 65.5 percent White and 72.5 percent Other. Nearly 81 percent were low-income.

But not everyone has been pleased with the way the overhaul has been carried out in Tennessee and other states.

The National Education Association teachers union published an opinion piece in 2014 titled “Another Lousy ‘Reform’ Idea: Replacing Remedial Education.” The writer criticized rushing into a new trend that too often is at the behest of state lawmakers without thoughtful input from educators on the front lines.


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