Groups Strive to Improve Remedial Education

By Catherine Groux
Posted October 21, 2011 11:58 AM

Many college officials are looking for ways to improve remedial education.
Many college officials are looking for ways to improve remedial education.
According to recent information provided by the U.S. Department of Education, in 2007-2008, about 36% of first-year undergraduates said they had taken at least one remedial course. While these classes can be beneficial in preparing students for more advanced coursework in subjects like mathematics and English, many academic leaders feel remedial education must be improved if we want to significantly increase the number of individuals who complete associate's and bachelor's degree programs.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in particular is striving to improve remedial education, the Huffington Post reports. The foundation has vowed to spend $100 million to improve remedial learning, stating that doing so is one of the best ways to increase community college graduation rates.

"Right away, your dreams of going to college are deferred, because technically you're not in college," Melinda Gates told the Post. "If you start in a remedial class, the odds are that you will never finish a credit-bearing course in that subject."

In order to improve remedial education, Gates highlighted schools that she believes use positive models. For example, a community college in Texas asks prospective students to take a placement test while they are in high school, while a Virginia-based community college has created new textbooks and lesson plans to send students through remedial courses faster.

A new study by the National Center for Postsecondary Research shows that summer bridge programs may also be a useful way to improve students' remedial education. In order to come to this conclusion, the Texas Education Coordinating Board helped 22 colleges create these remedial programs in 2007, which involved intensive math, reading and writing college preparation classes for individuals who had basic or low skills in these areas.

For study purposes, participants were divided into program and control groups. Individuals who were in the program group took the summer bridge courses, while those in the control group took their school's standard remedial classes.

Evidence from the study suggested that students were more likely to pass their college courses in math and writing when they participated in the summer bridge courses. Additionally, these degree seekers were more likely to take higher level math, reading and writing courses in the future than control group students.

This information may provide an road map for community colleges that are striving to increase their graduation rates by ensuring that all incoming freshmen are prepared for postsecondary coursework.

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