Efforts to reform remedial education rely too much on too little research, say developmental education experts.
More and more states are implementing initiatives that place new students directly into college-level courses through co-requisite programs. But some leaders of developmental education say this push fails to take instructors' input and experiences into account.
Last week, sector leaders met at the National Association for Developmental Education (NADE) to discuss the issue. In a piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Katherine Mangan rounded up five common misperceptions about open access developmental education.
To overhaul developmental classes, leaders say they need better data
1. Graduating from high school adequately prepares students for college courses.
Almost 70% of incoming community college students complete remedial classes—and while many of those individuals may succeed in normal college-level courses, thousands score far below passing levels.
These students may be adults returning to school after a decade away from the classroom or they may have graduated from a high school that lowered graduation standards in order to increase completion rates.
In the high school class of 2014, just 39% of students who took the ACT met at least three benchmarks for math, science, English, and reading.
"Thousands of students who graduate from high school are going to face the frustrating realization that their high-school diploma isn't enough to assume that they're ready to take on college-level classes," Mangan writes.
Seeking solutions for the developmental education conundrum
2. 'Remedial classes' and 'developmental education' are the same thing.
The classes themselves are just one part of a 360-degree approach to education, say the experts.
"Developmental education is about treating students holistically and realizing that they're not just students taking courses, but people who are parenting and working," says Hunter Boylan, National Center for Developmental Education's director.
Other components include tutoring and teaching study and time management skills.
While many reforms push replacing traditional classes with cheaper and faster online courses, students may end up struggling there, says Boylan.
3. More students will graduate if remedial course requirements are eliminated.
In Florida, lawmakers passed legislation making remedial classes optional—and pass rates in certain introductory college-level classes dropped.
Taking away the "supports" of remedial classes reverts the system back to "the revolving door of the 1960s, when anyone could attend college, but once there, it was sink or swim," says D. Patrick Saxon, associate professor of educational leadership at Sam Houston State University.
4. Co-requisite remediation works for everyone.
Taking remedial and college-level courses simultaneously may work for many students, but not the ones in greatest need, says Robin Ozz, NADE's president elect and director of developmental education at Phoenix College.
"These students get all excited thinking they'll be able to finish their college class in one semester, but then some struggle and drop out, which is terrible on their self-esteem," she says.
5. Remedial professors and instructors fight change.
Developmental education faculty members are extremely flexible and innovative, says Rebecca Goosen, associate vice chancellor for college preparatory at San Jacinto College.
"They are the first to initiate and adopt practices that improve student success and are the closest to understanding the needs and ability of students they serve," she says (Mangan, Chronicle of Higher Education¸7/28).
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