At Maricopa Community Colleges there is a lot of discussion about the rise of remedial students.  Students who are not college ready in Math, English, and Reading.  I understand some reasons why there is a need for remedial classes.  Returning students who haven’t been in a classroom in a few years.  What always baffled me is the recent high school graduate.  If they graduated from high school in our state, then they should have passed the appropriate classes to be ready for college.  Obviously, this is not the case since remedial students is rising, and just on my observations of classes, have noticed that it seems to be more and more high school graduates.  This is something that is not just happening in Arizona.  The New York Times writes:

The knowledge gap at community colleges is increasingly being recognized as a national problem. About 65 percent of all community college students nationwide need some form of remedial education, with students’ shortcomings in math outnumbering those in reading by 2 to 1, said Thomas R. Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Teachers College at Columbia University

A lot of money is being spent to help students who are not ready.  This takes away funding from the students who are prepared.  There are many students who get frustrated and they should be asking the question:  “Why did not my high school not prepare me?”  Is the placement test too hard?  I have had some students who just tested poorly.  Or is it the high school?  Did the student screw around or were they just not taught? 

I had a jolt last semester about remedial students.  There is a charter school that is teaching their fifth grade class what I was currently teaching my remedial students.  I was depressed at first.  If it can be taught in fifth grade, then what are we teaching in high school?  It is the failure of the school in passing the students who are not ready.  But, if they graduate them, the students are not their responsibility.  The charter school, using standards based learning, gives me hope for the future.  If they are now teaching the information in fifth grade that my students lack, then hopefully these upcoming students will be able to test out of freshman math/english/reading classes.  Or, at least that because they have used the skills for eight years, they will be more than ready for the freshman courses and that remedial classes are for students who had not been in college in a long time.  Obviously though, there is a problem.  The charter school changed – but the other schools need to do the same.  And before you say, “the charter skill must be for gifted students.” That is not so, it is for all students as it is the Arizona School for the Arts.  Anyone can go there (there is a lottery to get in unless a sibling is already attending).  So it is not just the smartest. 

What to do?  What are your ideas?

Mark Viquesney