Only 25 percent of community college students earn degrees within six years. This statistic is not only shocking, it’s bad news for our recovering economy. Why are community college students not succeeding? A large part of the problem lies within developmental education. A conference was held at the Teachers College of Columbia University to delve deeper into this subject.
Developmental education is the term used for sub-college level courses. Remedial course is another phrase used to describe these classes. Remedial courses include classes that teach basic reading and math, skills students should have learned long ago. These courses provide students with the skills needed to succeed in their college-level coursework and are often required for new students who do not score high enough on placement tests.
Remedial courses do not carry credit-weight, which is the main cause of discouragement for students who are placed in them. Students feel as though they’re working for nothing and 30 percent drop out before even beginning their college career.
Remedial courses have a reputation for being bland, boring and simple. Teachers often take a ‘read-from-the-book’ approach and they are largely un-inspired. Remedial courses have long been viewed as an inconvenience for teachers and students alike. This attitude has bred an outdated, ineffective system that leaves students frustrated.
John Easton, Director of the Institute of Education Sciences, says that community colleges should be “learning organizations that value strong leadership; encourage and support innovation; use data for continuous improvement; hire good teachers and then support and develop them and encourage their collaborative efforts; make good programmatic decisions; and constantly tweak, refine and fix these programs as they need them.”
In the past, there has been a large focus on how to make college accessible for more students. Although that’s surely an important issue, it’s time to focus a little more on keeping students in attendance once they’re accepted.
A rise in the need for remedial courses is ultimately the sign of failing systems in K-12 schools across the country. Pointing blame is easy, but fixing the problem isn’t. At the college level, more care should be taken to give support to teachers and students. Teachers need resources for implementing proven-to-work courses and encouraging their students to push past their limits and into the future.