Nathan: 28 percent of Minn. high school grads took remedial courses as college freshman

“Getting Prepared 2014,” a new report with information about every Minnesota public high school, shows something stunning: 28 percent of 2011 public school graduates took a remedial (aka “developmental”) reading, writing or math course on entering a public or private college or university.

A great feature of this report is that it allows readers to look not only at statewide data, but also at information about the individual public high schools in their own and neighboring communities. You can find this at http://bit.ly/TTd4c4. The state summary is at http://bit.ly/1lQFCZU.

Taking remedial, instead of college-level courses, costs students, families and taxpayers millions of dollars that could be better spent on courses that earn credit toward college degrees.

Getting Prepared 2014 has fascinating data for people who are interested in how well students are prepared for some form of higher education, whether two- or four-year. The report includes these findings:

–The percentage of students taking remedial courses at two-year colleges is increasing: from 49 percent in 2006 to 55 percent in 2011.

–State four-year universities are showing a decrease in students taking remedial courses: 26 percent in 2006 to 20 percent in 2011.

–Only 2 percent of University of Minnesota freshman took a remedial course in 2011, compared to 7 percent in 2006.

–While there is a difference in remedial course taking between students of different races, this is an issue affecting every Minnesota ethnic group: 24 percent of white, 38 percent of American Indian, 39 percent of Asian-American, 45 percent of Hispanic or Latino-American and 55 percent of African-American high school graduates entering colleges took remedial courses.

–It’s also true for students of various economic groups: 47 percent of graduates eligible for free lunch, 37 percent of graduates eligible for reduce priced lunch, and 24 percent of those eligible for regular lunch took remedial courses.

So this is not just a problem with low income or students of color. Taking remedial courses, which cost money but don’t count toward a college degree, is an issue in every Minnesota community.

Larry Pogemiller, commissioner of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, told me via email that the report found “students in developmental education are continuing their education at comparable rates to other students.” We will need to watch this trend because, nationally, students who take these courses are much less likely to graduate than students who don’t take them.

The Minnesota Legislature has required this report be produced annually for more than a decade, but the last report actually came out in 2011. The new report is different in several key ways from previous reports.

Because it uses different, broader sources of information, we can’t precisely compare data in this report with previous ones. The report issued in 2011 estimated that about 40 percent of Minnesota public high school graduates who entered a Minnesota public college or university took a remedial course. However, that report included data only from Minnesota public colleges and universities. The new, more comprehensive report includes records from private and outside-of-Minnesota colleges and universities as well as Minnesota public colleges and universities. Also, the new report includes only fall, remedial course taking while earlier reports included remedial courses taken in fall and spring.

Pogemiller also told me via email: “Minnesota’s 77 percent (higher education) enrollment rate compares very favorably to the national estimate of 68 percent, indicating our state is doing a good job of moving students from secondary into postsecondary education. Obviously, the fact that one in four high school graduates require at least one developmental class is a concern.”

Agreed. It’s also important to say “thanks” to the educators and families who help many students and “well done” to the students who are academically prepared.

 

Joe Nathan directs the Center for School Change. Reach him by email at joe@centerforschoolchange.org.

 

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