Many, many students in American community colleges take remedial classes, non credit-bearing courses that are supposed to get unprepared students “ready” for college. Students still have pay for these courses, but they don’t count toward a diploma.

Also they don’t really work very well. Two-thirds of students who take remedial courses never graduate. But there might be another way.

One of the problems might be how colleges decide to place students in remedial courses. As Susan Headden wrote for us last year, the placement tests colleges use to put people into remedial courses aren’t very good: many of the students forced into remedial courses probably don’t belong there.

But now, according to an article by Carla Rivera in the Los Angeles Times, some colleges are working on an alternative placement strategy:

Long Beach City College… is trying out a new system this fall that will place students who graduated from the city’s high schools in courses based on their grades rather than their scores on the standardized placement tests.

Long Beach is in the forefront of a movement in community colleges nationwide to reassess the use of placement tests for incoming students.

The Long Beach program came after officials discovered that their existing placement program was basically useless. According to the article, under the old system 60 percent of students forced to take remedial English earned an A or B in high school English classes. About 35 percent of students the old placement test put into regular college English classes earned a C or D in high school.

Twenty-two California colleges are involved the new program to place community college students in classes based on high-school transcripts. They will submit a report to the state about the outcome of the change in October.

About 85 percent of California community college students take remedial English classes. About 73 percent take remedial math.

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