Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The Role of Postsecondary Remediation for African American Students: A Review of Research

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The Role of Postsecondary Remediation for African American Students: A Review of Research

Article excerpt

The role of remediation in higher education has generated much debate over the last two decades. While states have enacted policies that reduced or eliminated postsecondary remediation, many policy actors and analysts have not completely acknowledged the ways in which remediation affects college access and success for African American students. This review of research first explains why African American students are disproportionately underprepared for college-level work. Then, the authors summarize the debates concerning the role of remediation in higher education, synthesize the research on the effectiveness of postsecondary remediation, and discuss major and recent policy enactments. They draw implications for the ways in which postsecondary remediation affects Africans American students and offer recommendations for future research and policy.

Keywords: higher education, remediation, African American students, academic success

Since the late 1990s, the role of postsecondary remediation has become a great concern to state policymakers, education policy analysts, institational researchers, college faculty, and administrators (Bettinger & Long, 2007; Mazzeo, 2002; Soliday, 2002). While some research on the effectiveness of postsecondary remediation has produced mixed findings (Calcagno & Long, 2008), most studies suggest that remedial programs increase the likelihood of successful collegelevel course completion and persistence to degree attainment (Attewell, Lavin, Domina, & Levey, 2006; Bahr, 2007, 2008a; Bettinger & Long, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009; Boylan, Bonham, & Tatari, 2005; Kreysa, 2007). Despite the evidence tJiat illustrates remedial programs have a positive impact on college access and student success, policymakers and analysts remain concerned about the duplication of costs and tax dollars spent on remedial needs (Terry, 2007), negative public perceptions (Presley, 2008), delayed time to degree completion (Melguizo, Hagedorn, & Cypers, 2008), and potential decrease in university rankings (Richardson, 2005).

State policymakers and college leaders have been particularly concerned about the extent to which colleges and universities can maintain academic quality and achieve institutional equity (Perm, 2006). More specifically, given that underrepresented students rely disproportionately on postsecondary remediation as a means to gain access to four-year colleges and universities, state and institutional officials remain perplexed about ways to increase academic rigor while providing opportunities for underrepresented students to access these institutions. Therefore, the policy debate concerning postsecondary remediation amounts to whether states and state higher education systems should maintain, revise, reduce, or eliminate remediation from public college and university settings. Given that 22 states or state higher education systems have already reduced or eliminated remediation from four-year colleges (Parker, 2007), this dispute has been a contentious policy issue in recent years.

African American students are most likely to rely on postsecondary remediation as a means for gaining access to higher education (Attewell et al., 2006). In fact, African American students are nearly twice as likely as White students to be found in remedial programs (Attewell et al., 2006). Therefore, if quality and equity are equally important policy matters, state and institutional leaders not only need to consider ways to maintain a strong curriculum and respectable standards, but also understand how postsecondary remediation affects access to and success in four-year institutions for African American students. However, little attention has been devoted to this matter.

To that end, this article reviews research on postsecondary remediation to understand its impact on college access and success for African American students. To contextualize why African American students are disproportionately underprepared for college-level work, there is first review literature on the academic experiences and outcomes of African American students in elementary and secondary schools. …

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