Saturday, April 07, 2012

A Better Chance to Succeed

Good to see as well:


NYT editorial

March 2, 2012

A Better Chance to Succeed

The Obama administration is rightly pushing colleges to raise graduation rates and to make sure that more students graduate on time. To help achieve those goals, the community college systems that enroll about 11 million students need to end the practice of shunting students who are prepared for college into non-credit remedial classes that chew up financial aid while making it far less likely that they will ever graduate.

This problem is underscored in two new studies from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College that examine remedial education policies at two unnamed systems: one large urban community college system and one statewide community college system. The studies, which look at tens of thousands of students over several years, found that more than a quarter of those assigned to remedial classes based solely on standardized test scores could have passed college-level classes with a grade of B or better.

What makes this especially disturbing is the fact that remedial courses are often a dead end. According to federal statistics, less than a quarter of students who start out there go on to earn two-year degrees or transfer to four-year colleges. This is sometimes because of poor skills, but frustration likely plays a significant role.

In any case, it now appears that large numbers of students who have the ability to do college-level work may be dropping out before they are given the chance to show it.

The researchers stop short of recommending that the community colleges abandon placement tests to judge student readiness. They argue that schools should also be using high school transcripts, which were found to be a better predictor of success, and should be prepared to override placement recommendations based on test scores. Community colleges, many of which have already recognized problems with the current system, should move ahead quickly to develop a new approach that gets extra help to students who really need it, without sidetracking those who are ready to do the work.

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