Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Report Finds Remedial Programs a Weak Spot at Community Colleges

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Report Finds Remedial Programs a Weak Spot at Community Colleges

Article excerpt

Anew report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE), "Expectations Meet Reality: The Underprepared Student and Community Colleges," examines weaknesses in developmental education programs at the nations community colleges. Developmental education has been identified as one of the barriers to improved graduation and completion rates at community colleges.

The report found that there is a mismatch between students' self-assessment of their academic abilities and the results they receive on placement exams. According to the report's findings, 86 percent of students believe they are "ready for college," but a full 67 percent test into developmental coursework.

Developmental, or remedial education, are courses intended to bring students up to speed, and they are not credit bearing. Some developmental sequences are three courses long, meaning that students can spend a year or more in developmental classes before they can start earning college credits.

"We know that very few students made it to a gatekeeper course, if they started [at the] lowest level of developmental education," said Evelyn Waiwaiole, director of CCCSE.

High school performance is typically taken as an indication of college potential, but the report found that 40 percent of the students who reported an A average in high school also tested into developmental education.

"If we're going to be serious about completion, we have to rethink and redesign how we get students ready for college-level work," Waiwaiole said. "There isn't a silver bullet because what we've been doing traditionally hasn't worked."

The report's findings suggest that placement exams may not be a wholly accurate indicator of college preparedness. Only 41 percent of the higher grade-earning students responding to the report prepared for their placement exam. Those students who do prepare for the placement exam tend to perform better.

One institution cited in the report, Washington State Community College, in Marietta, Ohio, implemented a monthly two-hour "brush-up" workshop to provide a review of basic concepts prior to students taking the exam. The college found that the workshop was not sufficient for students with the greatest need for academic support, however; so the college created a 10-week course on fundamental math in collaboration with another for literacy. …

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