kitchen table math, the sequel: Over Sixty Percent Remedial

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Over Sixty Percent Remedial

Our state paper had an article today about how 60% of the kids entering our community college system need at least one remedial class. Fifty percent need at least 2. (I think this is true nationally.) It also says that these kids run the greatest risk of dropping out. There are other issues since the graduation rate is only 10%.

The state Education Commisioner says that "... we need more college-educated adults ..." and that "...even if they don’t go to college, they need a level of skills to be successful in life." and also “We have to understand that this builds over time, from the very first day of elementary school, ...”.

The community college gives a standard test to all incoming freshman. The state tests (K-12) align with this standard (it's pretty low), but K-12 schools still allow students to move on to the next grade without meeting the low proficiency grade-level cutoffs. What do they think is going to happen? If they place the entire onus of success in education on the kids (and parents), then how do they think they are going to fix the problem?


SteveH said...

Doesn't this prove to them that learning is not natural? Do they think that it's just a matter of more engagement and hands-on work? Well, it doesn't seem to be working for those they wish to help the most. So, what they teach at ed schools is anti-social justice? Maybe it's un-critical thinking.

Allison said...

Just about everywhere, people can convince themselves that X didn't work because X wasn't done to fidelity. When authentic learning doesn't work, it wasn't authentic enough!

And don't be fooled into thinking that social justice was ever about raising the bar. It was about amassing power for some rather than others. Read Bill Ayers and you'll see that.

Robin said...

"Remedial" work in public higher ed will soon magically vanish thanks to the MOUs that are a part of both of the Common Core testing consortia.

The agencies controlling public higher ed have agreed that anyone deemed "college and career ready" under the new Common Core standards will not be put into remedial classes.

Will they know more? No but at least it will be harder to create alarm bells from the number of remedial classes.

Plus they get their degrees faster. Degrees and fostering the right kind of attitudes appear to be where US higher ed is going.

That's what happens when the emphasis is getting "all" to a common level when the underlying talents are not evenly distributed.

Anonymous said...

I can add some perspective ...

California has three tiers of publicly supported post-12th-grade education. The top is the UC system (with schools like Cal and UCLA). The middle is the Cal State system. The bottom tier is the local community colleges.

In theory, the UCs accept the top 12-ish percent, the Cal States accept from the top 33% (but, obviously, tend not to get a lot from the top 10% or so as these kids go to UCs) and the community colleges accept everyone.

As of about 2000, the remediation rate for the UC schools as a whole, WHEN EXCLUDING THE "SPECIAL ADMITS" (which, I suppose, is a polite term for "the kids who shouldn't be here") was about 35%. That's right, 1/3 of the top 12% of high school graduates needed to take remedial math or English or both.

For the Cal State schools, the rate was about 50%.

So ... if I read that community colleges are *ONLY* running at 60%, I'm (a) not surprised, except (b) that I *AM* surprised that it is so low.

It has been true in California for a long time that students who are "good enough, academically" to get in to UC or CalState colleges often don't know basic high school skills like Algebra (or, often, fractions) or how to write a coherent three page essay.


Things haven't gotten much better for Cal State in the last 10 years. About 50% of the Cal State admits are not proficient in English, and about 40% are not proficient in math. For what it is worth, the GPAs of the proficient and non-proficient groups are within 1/10th of a point of each other (3.3 vs 3.4).

Nothing new here. Things have been this bad for a long time, and I expect that they will continue to be bad for a long time to come.

-Mark Roulo


Lsquared said...

Robin said: "Plus they get their degrees faster"

This is questionable, at least in the case of math. Our cut scores on our math placement tests are based on what score has been shown to make it likely that the student will be able to pass college algebra. If students don't have to take remedial math, and they "get" to go straight to college algebra, and then they fail it several times, that does not actually lead to them completing their degree sooner. (Keep in mind, they _have_ to pass college algebra to graduate--remedial math is there to prepare them as a prerequisite so they have a good chance of passing college algebra).

Anonymous said...


What is "College Algebra"? It isn't abstract algebra. Algebra 2?

-Mark Roulo

Glen said...

These California statistics include people like my wife. When I first met her, she was in remedial English in the CA community college system. She was also tutoring her non-Asian classmates in calculus. She was from China.

Several years later, she was at the director level at a Silicon Valley company that is a household word.

Of course, since she had conscientiously obeyed the law and obtained a legal visa, California required her to pay three times as much for tuition as her classmates from down south who had broken the law and entered the country illegally. Our progressive politicians prefer the latter group, seeing them as more reliable supporters of "progress."

Anne Dwyer said...

You have to remember that remedial math at the university level is different from remedial math at the cc level. At our cc, we start at basic math. The first three classes (Basic Math, Pre Algebra and Elementary Algebra) are considered remedial. Intermediate algebra comes next. College Algebra is the equivalent of Pre Calc and is considered a college level class at the cc.
The the university level, we start at elementary algebra. Anything below calc is considered 'remedial'.

So the percentages don't surprise me since the university and cc percentages essentially measure different things.

Anonymous said...

Because remedial classes have to be paid for even if they are not credit bearing, they become a barrier to advancing toward a degree if funding is a problem.

These MOUs are a huge part of how Common Core is actually designed once implemented to destroy academics in K-12 and higher ed.

All the implementing documents are quite specific on what is planned.

They will do to K-12 and higher ed what the CRA did to the housing market and financial institutions. That's why they had to federalize education-if not the funding, they had to get control of assessments and professional development nationally. And they have.

With your tax dollars and borrowed money.

SteveH said...

In our state, educators define and calibrate the state tests. They probably create more bad grades because they try to make the tests "authentic" with thinking-type problems. They usually don't have simple problems of percents or fractions. In any case, they accept the need for tests, but they allow kids to move to the next grade without showing basic proficiency. This is nothing new, but now they seem surprised that the higher expectations and NCLB state tests haven't made any dent in the remedial numbers.

They think they are helping kids with social promotion, but it's really about helping themselves. If they had to hold back all of the kids who don't achieve proficiency each year, they would feel the heat. It doesn't necessarily mean that they are teaching poorly, but it would mean that they have to do a lot of explaining, especially if there is a big difference in results between teachers.

They want complete control over education, but they put the entire onus of success on kids and their parents. They hide behind the statistics of poverty, but they fight charter schools which could make a difference. They want more money, but show no connection between money and results.

Bostonian said...

SteveH criticizes social promotion, but if a big reason students do poorly is low intelligence (rather than lacking certain teachable academic skills), flunking those students will not improve their academic achievement but will cost more money. A Rand report Retaining Students in Grade
A Literature Review of the Effects of Retention on Students’ Academic
and Nonacademic Outcomes
found that "Relative to students who are promoted, retained students are more likely to be male, minority,
younger than their peers, of low socioeconomic status, and living in poor households and singleparent
families. They are also more likely to have poorer academic performance prior to
retention; significantly lower social skills and poorer emotional adjustment; more problem
behaviors, such as inattention and absenteeism; more school transfers; poorer health; and
disabilities. Parents of retained students are more likely to have lower IQ scores and lower levels
of cognitive functioning, lower educational levels, lower occupational levels, less commitment to
parenting responsibilities for their children’s education, lower expectations of their children’s
educational attainment, and less involvement in school.
• In general, retention does not appear to benefit students academically. In most of the studies
included here, we find negative relationships between retention and subsequent academic
achievement. On the other hand, a few studies have found academic improvement in the
immediate years after retention. Even so, these gains are often short-lived and tend to fade over
time. Findings from the few studies using rigorous methods to adjust for selection bias have
been mixed as well—with some showing short-term gains and others reporting gains that
disappeared over time."
I favor ending social promotion at least starting in grade 9, but flunked students would be encouraged to drop out, not repeat the grade. To enact this policy, we need to make "dropping out of high school" respectable again and think about how such youths can find jobs or apprenticeships. Maybe start by lowering the minimum wage. In 1950, "drop-outs" were not considered losers, but they are now.

People will say "there are no jobs for high school drop-outs", but most people who don't have true high-school-level skills -- say math through Algebra II and the ability to write a coherent 5-page paper -- DO find gainful employment.

Lsquared said...

The first credit bearing math class is different at different universities. The more exclusive the university, the higher up the class is, so at a tier 1 or 2 school, the first credit bearing class would be either calculus or pre-calculus (pre-calc wouldn't count toward any math or science major, but it would be fine if your major were History). I'm at a smaller, less exclusive university, and students can take college algebra for credit--if you take PreCalc and split it into two courses, the first going up through logs, and the second including trig and matrices, then the first of those classes is College Algebra. Remedial has two classes: beginning algebra and intermediate algebra (approximately algebra 1 and 2). Remedial at a community college, as Anne points out starts considerably lower.

Hainish said...

They probably create more bad grades because they try to make the tests "authentic" with thinking-type problems.

Steve, your state sounds suspiciously similar to my state. The NYS bio exams have questions that try to mimic higher-order thinking skills questions, but in reality are just simple content questions dressed up in vocabulary the students can't handle.

Of course, when few students get them right it just proves they're tapping into that rare conceptual understanding.

SteveH said...

"...but if a big reason students do poorly is low intelligence (rather than lacking certain teachable academic skills), flunking those students will not improve their academic achievement ..."

What if the reason is something else? What "if" percentage are you talking about? How do you determine if specific kids don't have the needed skills? My son's fifth grade Everyday Math class had many quite capable kids who hadn't mastered the times table. KTM is all about fixing this problem, not hopping on a soapbox (once again) and claiming that it's an IQ problem.

"...retention does not appear to benefit students academically..."

Does it benefit the kids who are academically fit? What you get are classes that are geared to the low end and are built around hands-on engagement. Did the "rigorous" studies look into that effect?

"I favor ending social promotion at least starting in grade 9, but flunked students would be encouraged to drop out, not repeat the grade."

Great, push them along assuming that it's their IQ and then push them out.

Catherine Johnson said...

if a big reason students do poorly is low intelligence (rather than lacking certain teachable academic skills)

That appears to be a widespread opinion here in my district.

**My** opinion is that if it's all about what the students bring to the table, then we don't need to be spending $30K per pupil to ratify biology.