New Math Pathways Match Instruction to Needs
In California, community colleges are trying a whole new approach to remedial math classes. Instead of requiring students to take courses in subjects they may never need or use, math classes are customized to a student’s specific major and area of interest. For example, aspiring engineers may need remedial algebra if they are to properly prepare for the math required in their degree program. However, English or history majors might be just as well suited to a class in statistics that teaches basic math concepts quickly and effectively.
The Prevalence of Remedial Education
An article at the Hartford Courant suggests that too many incoming freshmen are getting placed in remedial classes before they can take actual college coursework. The Courant reports that as many as 60 percent of all students entering community college must take at least one refresher course in math or English. What is even more unsettling is that only about one-quarter of these students go on to actually complete their degree program.
About the Placement Tests
Many community colleges require incoming students to take placement exams before they can register for courses. The purpose of the examinations is to identify students who might need remedial help to ensure their success in college-level courses. The most common tests used by schools today are the ACT’s Compass or the College Board’s Accuplacer. Tests are designed to show academic deficiencies so students can be brought up to par before they are introduced to the rigors of a college curriculum.
Who Owns the Problem?
The first question regarding remedial education is who really owns the problem of high school graduates that are not adequately prepared for postsecondary education. Many believe it is the job of high schools to ensure students are college-ready when they graduate. However, a recent report at Inside Higher Ed explains that at this time, a standardized platform for college readiness simply does not exist. The article states, “Because colleges have not clearly articulated the skills that students must possess to be college-ready, students are blindsided when they are placed into remedial courses, and high schools don’t have a clear benchmark for preparing students for success.”