The Rhetoric of Rigor and Remediation

With all the discussion about how there’s currently too much remediation going on in American colleges, some high schools are looking to combat the problem head on. One Ohio school district thinks the answer is to make all students take more demanding courses. According to an article by Brett Nuckles in the Columbus Local News:

Recently, Olentangy schools have begun to implement a number of new strategies to combat college unpreparedness. One of the most important new strategies, [school district data official Tom] Fry said, has been the use of projections data to move students into the most appropriate math course available. “Using past testing history, we’ve been able project a student’s potential success in future courses,” he said. “We’ve been using all the data we have to push kids into the most appropriate and challenging classes.”

“It really opens up doors for them to be able to take even higher-level math courses in high school,” he said. “Obviously, the higher math you take here, the less likely you’ll need remediation when you get to college.”

This effort to increase the rigor of math courses extends throughout the whole school district. The sentiment behind this is laudatory—rigorous courses expose students to more information and forces them to access and process new material, which is, after all, the point of education—but the efforts of the Olentangy Local School District seem rather misguided. How much does a 19-school distinct really need to rely on “data projections” to figure out if high school graduates can handle college?

Currently students already have to take four years of mathematics, up to Algebra II, just to graduate from an Ohio public high school. Maybe just focus on doing a good job with that. That’s about all that’s needed for college.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer