Remedial college courses: More Colorado students need them, report shows

Categories: Education

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More Colorado college students are taking remedial courses once they arrive on campus, according to a report released today. In the 2010-11 school year, 31.8 percent of recent high school graduates were placed into a remedial course, as opposed to 28.6 percent in 2009-10. The remediation rate for students over twenty years old is even higher: 57 percent needed remediation last year.

The statistics break down even further. Remediation rates are higher at two-year colleges than at four-year colleges. According to the report, 58.2 percent of two-year students were placed in remedial classes in 2010-11, as opposed to 20.5 percent of four-year students. Both rates are higher than the previous year, which could be related to overall growth in college enrollment.

Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia presided over the press conference to release the 2011 Legislative Report on Remedial Education, which is full of facts and figures, including the percentage of students from each Colorado high school who needed remediation in college. In Denver, the numbers range from 11.1 percent from the Denver School of Science and Technology to 89.6 percent from West High School.

Garcia said the report was "not meant to indict any particular system." The rise in remediation rates is not surprising, he said, given that the demographics of high school students are changing to reflect more low-income students, students for whom English is not their first language and students of color, who are statistically more likely to need remediation. Plus, Garcia said, more adults -- who also historically need more remediation -- are going back to college because of the poor job market.

"Now the question is, what do we do?" he said.

Steps are already being taken. With the help of a $1 million grant from the nonprofit organization Complete College America, the state's community colleges are working on reforming their remedial courses and policies with an eye toward making sure those students who need extra help don't become frustrated and drop out of college.

The report shows that Colorado's retention rates -- or the number of remedial students who enroll in college for a second year -- are improving. Statistics for two-year colleges show that 54.3 percent of students assigned to remediation were retained in 2010-11, as opposed to 55.9 percent of those not assigned to remediation. The difference between the two groups was more pronounced at the four-year colleges: 62.7 percent for those who needed remediation, compared to 78.5 percent for those who didn't. Still, the two-year and four-year college retention rates are an increase from 2009-10.

A bill sponsored by Representative Tom Massey and Senator Bob Bacon could help even more, Garcia said. House Bill 12-1155 seeks to eliminate the frustration felt by many four-year college students who must now take remedial courses off-campus at a community college because their school doesn't offer them -- even though they met the criteria to be admitted to the four-year school. "The bill would allow four-year colleges to address the academic needs of the students they've admitted," Garcia said.

Garcia also pointed to the importance of programs such as Colorado GEAR UP, which has existed since 1999 and recently received a seven-year, $35 million federal grant. In addition to offering counselors and college fairs to low-income students, GEAR UP gives kids the opportunity to take remedial college classes in high school to get ahead of the game. If they pass, they won't have to take them in college.

More from our Education archive: "Journalism Plus: There is a future for journalism at CU-Boulder after all."

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Donkey Hotay
Donkey Hotay

And yet there are no minimum qualification standards for voting in the U$A ...

... or procreating.

Stay the course.

"Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"— George W Bush, Florence, South Carolina; January 11, 2000

"As yesterday's positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured." — George W Bush, On the No Child Left Behind Act, Washington, D.C.; September 26, 2007

"Then you wake up at the high school level and find out that the illiteracy level of our children are appalling." — George W Bush, Washington, D.C.; January 23, 2004

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

The 31.8% enrolling in remedial courses must be considered incompetent in the sense that they have not mastered twelfth-grade skills.  Based on the fact that high school graduates who do not go on to college are generally academically less well prepared and less motivated than those who do, it is an inescapable conclusion that more a third (perhaps as many as half) of those graduating from Colorado high schools are not earning their diplomas.

There is a crisis of competence and of ethics playing out in what remains of our educational system, and Colorado's abysmal spending on education fails to explain or excuse the wholesale falsification and subversion of the academic basis for secondary schools.  I believe in public education, but what we are paying for now is corrupt and unsustainable.  Those who tow the line of the educational establishment, prate about the pernicious effects of standardized testing, and bemoan our inadequate funding of education on the one hand collaborate with those who are trying to implicate bad teaching as the reason for the catastrophe in public education and on the other, ignore the elephant in the room -- the fact that many or even most high school graduates in Colorado lack twelfth- and in some cases ninth-grade skills in mathematics, English, or both.

In practical terms, the emphasis on raising high school graduation rates is fundamentally wrong in that so many who are being graduated should not be.  I and many other Coloradans will not support funding the present educational system absent evidence that it is doing what any reasonable person without a degree in education would expect it to do.  There is a weird disconnect between what people who think of themselves as progressive and liberal think should be done about public education and a what a much quieter and diverse majority of the electorate think.  CPR has been playing Rollie Heath over and over in a promo for the "continuing discussion about how to fund public education" (may be paraphrasing), but the electoral defeat of Proposition 103 was a landslide.  Someday soon I hope that someone living in the ivory tower of Colorado liberalism will connect just the two dots of low competence rates of entering freshmen and patently false propaganda about high school graduation rates, and that that person will then tell CPR, Melanie, and every person writing about education in Colorado that the connection exists and is significant.  I cannot be the only observer of the situation able to add one to one and come up with two.


I knew our sub-par level of school funding was doing great things.  Hooray for the status quo!

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