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Remedial College Classes Debated

by | Feb 17, 2012 5:30am
() Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Education

Hugh McQuaid file photo

Sen. Beth Bye

Seven out of 10 students entering state community colleges take at least one non-credit remedial course, which hinders their ability to graduate in two years.

Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, sees in remedial classes a troubling contradiction: if a student is qualified for admission to a state college, why would the school hold the student back?

State colleges – especially community colleges, which enroll the largest numbers of remedial students – would be allowed to recommend students for remediation, but they would be required to include remedial help in introductory classes for students on an as-needed basis.

Bye and Rep. Roberta Willis, who co-chair the Higher Education and Advancement Committee, and many of the educators who testified Thursday at a public hearing on the bill agreed that the current system is not working.

Only 12.3 percent of students who take at least one remedial class graduate in four years, compared to 22.2 percent of students who have not taken remedial classes.

For full time students, the figure has decreased from 74 percent in 2004 to 70 percent in 2011. But the trend has increased for part-time students, rising from 63 percent to 71 percent in the same period.

While Bye and Willis congratulated schools on their efforts to develop pilot programs for remedial students, they said the state needs to enact a uniform policy in order to make real progress.

David Levinson, a member of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, agreed with Bye that the current system of remedial classes is not working, but said that simply opting out of remedial classes would only leave students open for future failure.

“Here’s the dilemma with remediation, too many students need it, and too few succeed when they get it,” Levinson said.

He said that public high school students often graduate without being adequately prepared for the challenges of higher education.

“We also must face the reality that we receive at our doorsteps each fall students who are way behind,” Levinson said.

Levinson added that allowing ill-prepared students to skip remedial classes could produce “a kind of Darwinian result where they fail introductory classes in large numbers.”

“I would argue that right now, it’s pretty Darwinian,” Bye said.

Levinson said that the committee should consider low or no cost remedial summer programs and self paced remedial classes where students are allowed to finish the work at their own pace, helping to keep them interested.

Jason Jones, an English professor at Central Connecticut State University, said that the numbers cited by Bye and Levinson were invalid because the studies from which they were derived failed to consider other factors that impede academic progress, leading to a false correlation.

These numbers, Jones said, “fade into noise,” when high school preparation and other factors like a student’s economic background are considered.

A much more suitable solution would be focusing on high school preparedness, Jones said, rather than removing remedial classes because the former option would be more likely to help students graduate on time.

Bye and Willis did not debate the efficacy of these programs, but Bye said that individual students who are motivated to push themselves should be granted the opportunity.

“Why not just let the students who want to try, try?” Bye said.

The proposed bill would allow students at state colleges to opt out of remedial classes.

It would allow students who do not earn a high enough score on a placement exam other options beyond enrolling in remedial classes that consume money and time but do nothing to help students earn a degree.

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(3) Archived Comments

posted by: brutus2011 | February 17, 2012  9:46am


Do you realize what this means? Too many kids are being graduated from our high schools without knowing what they should know. Peroid!
Why are those whose job it is to see that this does not happen allowed to continue to set policy and escape accountability? In addition these educational leaders have framed the ed reform debate around teachers, tenure, and
unions. The truth is, which policy makers know full well, that only college professors can acheive tenure and not K-12 teachers. Unions try to protect teachers from arbitrary actions of administrators who seek to protect their higher paying jobs. If you read this and think that it can’t be as it looks, think again. The situation is exactly as it looks. The foxes are guarding the chicken coop!

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | February 17, 2012  1:39pm


Using the same testing colleges use for admission as graduation standards would be tantamount to admitting the mass failure of CT public high school education.

The representatives will do anything to hide that fact.

New York used the Regents Test for years. Quick easy admission to state colleges was a regents degree.

Having taught in a post-secondary school the placement exam is a good thing. Issuing financial aids checks to everyone who walks in the door was a problem for years with Joe’s Hairdresser School. Beth Bye is looking for a return to the days when Guido would strong arm homeless people to sign for a financial aid check.

Check into this factoid sometime: the graduation and job placement rates required for private career schools like a Porter and Chester. They couldn’t stay in business if they produced the state numbers. They’d be shut down and thrown in jail for abusing financial aid programs among other forms of abuse and exploitation. 

In CT as long as public institutions are doing the exploiting and abusing then its worshipped and glorified and praised as successful.

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | February 17, 2012  5:28pm


For career schools the ACCSC is the accrediting agency and schools are required to publish their on time graduation rate and job placment rates on a per program basis.

A loss of accrediation means a loss of Federal Financial Aid. In general schools need better than 60% graduation and 60% job placement.

As an exmple from one local site

Medical Assisting

On-Time Graduation Rates

Placement Rate For 2010

10% is criminal. Literally. If it was a private school jail would be the outcome. With the state it comes with pensions and a gaggle of apologists.

For the taxpayers and financial aid funding? A blight.