What Happens When Colleges Start Treating Remedial Students Like Everyone Else
Posted By Derek Johnson on April 8, 2016 at 9:22 am
A growing amount of research has shown that most incoming college students placed in remediation courses do not gain any real benefits or skills that prepare them for college-level courses. In fact, students placed in remediation are more likely to take on additional student loan debt, more likely to drop out, and less likely to finish their degree. Given the alarming failure of most college remediation programs and the pernicious unintended consequences they cause, experts are increasingly questioning the value of these programs and pushing for alternatives like co-requisite remediation programs.
Now, new data from a Tennessee pilot program will likely bolster that argument. The Tennessee Board of Regents released a report detailing the results of placing thousands of community college students into the co-requisite remediation model. The results were astounding. Under the old system, just 12.3 percent of remedial math students and 30.9 percent of remedial English students went on to complete a credit-bearing course in their subject within the next academic year. Under the pilot co-requisite model, those numbers soared to 63.3 percent for math students and 66.9 percent for English students.
When students were sorted and grouped by ACT scores, race, and age, the results showed improvement across the board. This suggests the co-requisite approach is beneficial to incoming students regardless of their circumstances or background.
Current remediation practices like segregating students into a separate class have been shown to drain enthusiasm for college and sap the self-confidence and engagement of participants. As Bruce Vandal, senior vice president of the non-profit Complete College America put in an interview with GoodCall back in January, many remedial students wind up perceiving that they have been taken away from ‘real’ college courses and placed in a special class for ‘students who aren’t college-ready.’
“When a student enters college and is placed in remedial courses that don’t count for a degree – and that they still have to pay for – it sends a message that you’re really not college material. And, it has a fairly negative impact on their prospects of enrolling [in college-level courses] or succeeding in those courses,” said Vandal.
For years, Vandal’s organization and others have been pushing states to adopt an alternative model called “co-requisite remediation,” whereby remedial students are placed alongside their peers in regular college courses and provided additional tutoring on the side. Vandal pointed to data from states that have partially or fully adopted this model that strongly suggests the policy significantly increases the success rate for students placed in the program.
Co-requisite models could have powerful impacts for minority students
The improvement among minority students is particularly notable since black and Hispanic students tend to be placed in remediation at much higher numbers. Minority students placed in the co-requisite model experienced a success rate six times higher for math and more than three times higher for English than minorities placed in traditional remediation, with success being defined as taking a credit-bearing course within a year of remediation.Vandal stated that the argument for adopting the co-requisite model was not only economic but a matter of racial equality. Large shares of minority students are channeled into remedial classes and must pay tuition for these classes but do not earn credit towards a degree.
Vandal stated that the argument for adopting the co-requisite model was not only economic but a matter of racial equality. Large shares of minority students are channeled into remedial classes and must pay tuition for these classes but do not earn credit towards a degree.
“Seventy percent of African-American students entering community colleges are being placed in remediation. Forty percent of those students are in remedial math and English, and only 11 percent of those students are passing college-level courses within two years, said Vandal. “From a racial equity and economic point of view, the existing system is arbitrary, capricious and negatively impacting students who need support the most.”
Positive results for co-requisite programs across the country
In addition to Tennessee, other states such as Georgia, West Virginia, Indiana and Colorado have also implemented co-requisite programs with similar degrees of success. Sarah Tucker, Chancellor of the West Virginia Community College and Technical System has also praised the policy and credited the move to co-requisite teaching for nearly doubling the percentage of remedial students who went on to take “gateway” courses in English and quadrupling the percentage for math.
“In all of my years doing research about higher education, I have never seen results like this,” said Tucker in an interview with Education Dive. “You simply don’t see that type of progress happen that quickly in higher education.”
It seems likely that more states will begin to adopt co-requisite teaching in future years. In a climate where more Americans than ever view college as an absolute necessity to professional success, there has been much debate as to whether this has caused a glut of “unqualified” students who are not “smart” or “hardworking” enough to succeed. Under the old remediation model, it would have been easy to discount the students who dropped out or did not finish as being “not college material.”
The successes of states like Tennessee demonstrate that schools don’t need to radically alter their curriculum or lower standards to disprove this theory. It’s possible to achieve better results by simply shifting away from a position that segregates and creates additional obstacles for students in of need support. The Tennessee Board of Regents’ findings reveal the powerful impact of assuming student success rather than failure.