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Editorial: Identifying who needs remedial help in college, and why

Should the University of New Hampshire expect every student with a Concord High School diploma and good SAT scores to be ready for college-level English and math courses? How about a Merrimack Valley diploma or one from Pembroke Academy or Kearsarge?

Should NHTI expect local high school graduates to be ready to jump into the curriculum there? Should the expectations be the same at Plymouth State University and Keene State?

We’ve heard anecdotal fretting from New Hampshire college officials over the years about the burden of providing remedial classes for incoming freshmen who, they believe, should really be ready for college-level work from Day 1. Such review classes are an indictment of high-school curricula, even college-prep courses, that give students a false sense of readiness.

A proposal in the Legislature would provide a modest first step toward identifying the scope of the problem. Lawmakers should treat it seriously – and educators in both the K-12 and postsecondary systems should see it not as an attack but rather as an opportunity to better prepare students for life after high school.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Kris Roberts of Keene, would require the state university and community college systems to submit data on the number of first-year students from New Hampshire high schools who are required to take remedial classes in English, math or both. The data would have to be sorted by the students’ high schools, and it would have to be made available 30 days after classes began each year.

Presumably, after a few years, New Hampshire policy-makers would have a clearer idea of which school districts were best preparing their students for postsecondary work and which ones weren’t.

But then what?

This issue isn’t unique to New Hampshire, of course. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education recently pegged the national percentage of first-year college students unprepared for postsecondary studies at an alarming 60 percent. (Overall, the problem is most significant at two-year schools and less worrisome at the most selective four-year schools.) “States have been much more successful in getting students into college than in providing them with the knowledge and skills needed to complete certificates or degrees. Increasingly, it appears that states or postsecondary institutions may be enrolling students under false pretenses. Even those students who have done everything they were told to do to prepare for college find, often after they arrive, that their new institution has deemed them unprepared. Their high school diploma, college-preparatory curriculum, and high school exit examination scores did not ensure college readiness,” the report said.

Remedial courses cost money but, most often, don’t count toward college graduation. The process is time-consuming, expensive – and often discouraging to students.

Even before school-specific New Hampshire data are available, lawmakers and educators must ask themselves if they’re doing all they can to prepare their students. Do all the public colleges and universities in the state make clear their standards for determining who needs remedial coursework? Do all the school districts in the state have a good understanding of those standards? Are student tests at the high-school level in sync with those standards? Should high school officials have a role in creating those standards? And if good college-entrance exam scores can’t offer students a guarantee that they won’t need remedial help, are admissions officials relying too heavily on them?

Graduating from high school is a significant accomplishment in any young person’s life. That diploma should signify that they’re truly academically prepared for their next step.

Legacy Comments10

The author of the letter is on target, but I disagree with his idea for a college level study to determine the scope. A better solution would be to actually look at the sixth grade, as I believe the problem actually starts very early. The general notion follows that elementary school is where students learn the basics, the 3 "r's". Middle school being 6 thru 8. If the incoming 6th grade is not ready, then automatically catch-up has to take place cutting into more advanced learning that would normally happen. This then snowballs to high school and finally is dumped in the colleges lap. So we do a disservice by waiting until college to see how bad things are. If a 6th grader is doing 3rd grade level work, why wait to see the inevitable? Early learning habits follow a student so this is where emphasis should be.

Now back to the point at hand. No name calling and no politics. I don't necessarily support or understand some of what passes as modern education. In the 70's I remember the idea of the open concept classroom, it was fun but basically it was a joke. Don't mistake my views on special education on not being sympathetic but we are really going to far. What we used to call being lazy about school is now a disability for a fair number. Teaching a class of 26 where 5-10 have their own IEP does a disservice to those that get held up waiting while teachers play catch-up for special needs. Dealing with behavioral issues should not consume as much of a teachers time. Where are the parents ? We are all so quick to blame teachers unions and teachers for the decline in education quality. But these are not the policy setters, so at least we can omit the usual canned dialog. The sad truth is that not all are college material. It takes more than a teacher to stress the importance and this is where economics and the family play the key role in reinforcing the value of an education.

I kind of thought that using the BS term was a no no on this forum. Doesn't that term fall into the category of foul language? Just asking, the term seems kind of nasty and caustic.

Nah! BS is OK as is Hell, damn, etc. Sail is correct though, look at all of the money spent in say, Detroit or Chicago on inner city schools and what is the result.....spending causing bankruptcy, moral and civil societal decline, increased murder rate and people who are not able to read and write. Just "aks" them, yo, yo, yo.........I seen it for myself........you'ze guys just don't no.......there just not being skooled.

the massive failure of the zip code based liberal progressive run massive big govt institutions of indoctrination is legendary. When a product or service is lousy the consumer usually can choose a different vendor. Why dont the democrats allow you choice?

Legendary you say, made up BS I say. But just what does this have to do with the letter?? Oh, right....nothing as usual.

Calling me a BS - how cute - evidence that refutes your insult: http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/library/chart-graph/inflation-adjusted-cost-k-12-public-education-and-percent-change-achievement-17-year-olds-1970. This forum is open to post your apology 24 hours

I simply said that what you refer to as legendary, I call bs. I called you nothing. As to your link - your point is what? That education costs have skyrocketed, well I certainly can't disagree. For an eyeopener look at what special education costs now are and just how many resources are consumed. ------------- As for "the massive failure of the zip code based liberal progressive run massive big govt institutions of indoctrination is legendary" that comment is BS, pure and simple.

zip code based liberal progressive run massive big govt institutions of indoctrination have been proven to be an absolute failure. The proof in charts and graphs and study after study show that 40 years of absolute mediocrity without even one improvement Fot you not to see that failure as ...."LEGENDARY" - then you are the problem - not - the solution. quite possibly the absolute worst apology ever

Expect the number of students needing remedial courses to rise with the Common Core. Especially in math.

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