Colleges revamp remedial work

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 26, 2019

Need for ‘review’ classes declining in state’s colleges

A study by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama states that the number of college freshman in Alabama having to take remedial courses is on the decline.

LBW Community College Dean of Student Affairs Jason Jessie said that the community college is taking steps to revamp its remedial placement strategy to keep on decreasing that number.

“Statewide, we are looking at ways to change the way that we place students in these remedial courses,” Jessie said. “Previously we have looked exclusively only at test scores. Meaning, we would only look at a student’s ACT and if that score in math and English wasn’t high enough then they would have to take an entrance exam to place them in a remedial course or in the college level coursework.”

Previously, LBW has used a company called Accuplacer, where students would have to take tests based on if their ACT score was too low for the required math and English scores.

“Now what we are going to do in the fall, is using secondary measures,” Jessie said. “The first thing that we are going to look at again, is that ACT score and if they meet that minimum test requirement then they will go straight into college level coursework. If they don’t, then we are going to start looking at a combination of test scores and high school grades in that subject. For example, if a student doesn’t have a 20 in math, but they have an 18, then we are going to look at their overall grade point average, what grades they made in maybe algebra one and algebra two.”

If the student meets the secondary criteria, Jessie said that the student will have to take a new set of courses called supplemental instruction.

“We are developing new courses in that some of the classes now, instead of having it be cut and dry, you either go into remedial or you don’t, we will have a class that is a college level course, but it will have an additional lab that the student has to take,” Jessie said. “It is for those students that are right there on the border. Maybe they are not absolutely ready for that college level class, but they are pretty close, so we will put them in a class that will have what we will call supplemental instruction.”

Jessie said that remedial education is a challenge when it comes to data gathered on it.

“If you look at the data on remedial education, you will see that students that are placed in remedial courses typically aren’t as successful as those students who place in the higher level college courses,” Jessie said. “I think for us as a college, we try to do as much as we can to keep students out of those remedial courses. Not only because they have a better chance at being successful, but remedial classes cause extra time on their degree, additional expense for a class that they are getting virtually no credit for.”

LBW’s goal is to get students out of remediation as quickly as possible or for some students to not even have to take it, Jessie said.

“We want to get as many students out of remediation as we can,” Jessie said. “Now, we definitely recognize that for some students it is definitely necessary. Maybe it is an adult who is coming back to school and they haven’t had math in 10 years that is what remediation is for. Ultimately, I tell students this all the time, we are glad that you are here, but we want you to go. We want to prepare you for that job you are going to or the University you’re transferring to.”

The study looked at spring 2017 graduates of Alabama high schools, who then in turn enrolled at Alabama public colleges.

The data indicates that 28 percent of those students were required to take remedial courses in either math, English or both.

That’s down from 2011, when that number was close to 35 percent.