Now, a pair of studies by the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University is suggesting that the remedial classes that so characterize community colleges are, in many cases, are needless. The studies – one looked at a statewide system, the other examined a large urban system – found that as many as a third of students required to take remedial classes could prosper academically without them.
For community colleges, it’s a critically important issue. Better than 60 percent of all entering community college students are required to take remedial classes, most often in math and English. They spend time and money reviewing material like basic algebra — remedial math, in fact, is offered more often than any other community college course — but earn no academic credit for their work. Two-thirds of students who take remedial courses never make it to graduation. Community colleges spend more than $2.5 billion a year on remedial courses.
Better than 90 percent of community colleges rely one of two standardized tests – the College Board’s AccuPlacer and ACT’s COMPASS – to help determine which students need remediation. But administration of the tests is deeply flawed, the studies found. Students rarely understand what is at stake or brush up on their skills prior to taking the tests, the studies found, leading to tens of thousands of unnecessary placements. Moreover, the tests are poor predictors of student success.
Researchers found that high-school grade-point averages are far better gauges of preparedness for college-level work. If high school transcripts were taken into account, the number of number of students assigned to remedial courses would be reduced by somewhere between 15 and 50 percent..
The studies can be found at http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Home.asp.