- Community colleges in California are beginning to implement a new law passed last fall that changes how college readiness is determined, mitigating an overreliance on testing that places students in costly remedial courses that delay and frustrate the ones who are already the most likely to drop out, according to EdSource.
- Community college leaders and others championed the law because some 170,000 students were being put into remedial courses based on test scores, although studies showed tests were not accurate predictors of college success, unfairly disadvantaged minorities and that alternatives were available, including high school coursework rigor and grades, which the new law recommends.
- The state joins Texas, Florida and Connecticut in passing legislation to reduce the number of students required to take traditional remediation courses, according to a Brookings Institution report that predicts such efforts will substantially reduce those numbers.
In a number of ways, colleges have stepped back from a too-heavy reliance on testing for admissions as an indicator of college success, implementing test optional admissions requirements and reportedly more often relying on character, portfolios or other non-academic qualities.
However, the Center for American Progress (CAP) has reported testing for placement in remediation unfairly still puts more than one million students – around half by some accounts – into remedial courses that make college more expensive (costing about $1.3 million annually nationwide) and discourages them from completing college. The CAP report showed 56% of African-American students and 45% of Latino students had to enroll in remedial courses, compared to about 35% of white students. It also reported on-time completion rates for those students was 10% and other reports say less than 20% percent in remediation courses graduate at all.
One popular solution is co-requisite instruction, where underprepared students are placed in college classes but receive additional support. Cuyamaca College in Rancho San Diego, CA, reported it had dramatically higher completion rates for all types of students with such a system, and Montgomery College in Maryland is reporting success with a similar program that looks at high school grades rather than test scores. Guttman Community College in New York has abandoned remedial courses and instead supplements content in early classes and provides other supports for at-risk students.
This all comes at a time when the Every Student Succeeds Act is intended to re-examine mandatory high school testing, but reports suggest states have not taken advantage of it, though there is experimentation with using college admissions tests as the standard assessment for high school achievement. In addition, some are looking at ways to bolster failing high school efforts to develop college-ready students as a solution to high remediation rates.