The Fight Against Remediation

Complete College America, a nonprofit devoted to persuading politicians and campuses to pursue policies to increase college graduation, has a new initiative in Connecticut that’s likely to become law. Some experts object to this plan.

CCA plans to fix remediation, the non-credit-bearing system of courses some colleges force students to take before admitting them to introductory courses, largely by eliminating it. According to a piece by Paul Fain at Inside Higher Ed:

[National Center for Developmental Education Director Hunter] Boylan and another top expert on remediation have publicly challenged some aspects of Complete College America’s campaign, which pushes for students to be placed into credit-bearing courses with extra academic support, rather than in the typically noncredit remedial pathway. They argue that research remains somewhat flimsy on how to improve remediation, and said the group’s support for a proposal to completely eliminate remedial education in Connecticut was a mistake.

“Given the paucity of knowledge about what works for remedial students,” wrote Thomas R. Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Teachers College of Columbia University, in an opinion piece published in the Hartford Courant, “Connecticut’s bill is too inflexible.”

The Connecticut bill would eliminate most remedial courses in the state’s community colleges by 2014. Under the new law students would only take remedial courses for a semester before moving directly into regular courses. Bailey argues, however, that “it is far from clear… that one semester of instruction is adequate to prepare students with very weak skills for a college level course, even with additional supports.”

Yes, well if we only implemented higher education policies because we knew they worked beforehand, colleges would still be single-gender and run by the churches.

In reality, one semester of remedial instruction isn’t at all adequate to prepare students for college. That’s because remedial instruction is really awful. But if colleges can’t force students into remedial courses for indefinite periods of time, they’ll have to get more effective about delivering remedial education.

Sure, the “research remains somewhat flimsy,” but there’s nothing like a state mandate to force innovation.

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