Georgia remediates nearly half of its technical college students. How do we fix that?

Several posters asked that we tackle the great AJC Sunday story on the costs of remediation for technical college students, a piece that has not run online.  If it does, I will add a link. This is a very well done story, and I encourage you all to read it.  (You can find it in the Sunday AJC.)

In short, AJC higher ed reporter Laura Diamond reported that nearly half the students who enter the Technical College System of Georgia need remedial classes in reading, writing or math. The system spent about $36 million of its $718.6 million budget last year — an amount expected to rise even higher — teaching students what they should have learned in high school.

One of the points that the story makes is that there is a lot of finger pointing in this mess, colleges at high schools, high schools at k-12 and k-12 at teacher education programs.

At some point, we have to get past the blame to why Georgia is turning out so many kids who lag in basic skills. The story gives examples of what these kids don’t know, and it’s alarming. In one class, the teacher was showing students possessive nouns: “Jack’s crazy cat chased my dog.”

According to the news story:

“I, along with many members of the Legislature, have deep concerns about the quality of k-12 education that makes remedial classes necessary in our post-secondary institutions, ” said Rep. Len Walker, R-Loganville, chairman of the House higher education committee.

Gov. Nathan Deal has assembled a commission that will spend the next year studying a number of funding issues at Georgia’s universities and technical colleges, including the cost and effectiveness of remedial education. Walker is its co-chair.

Joe Dan Banker, executive director for academic affairs for the technical system, noted that technical colleges serve many older adults who enroll years after high school and need refresher classes. But over the past few years the colleges have admitted more adults under 25 who lack basic skills, he said.

“We’re seeing more students who need this help and we know more will come our way, ” Banker said. “We’re looking for a better way to help them because they’re just not prepared.”

Banker is expecting more remedial students in part because of a change in state policy. Starting next fall students who need remedial lessons in all three areas — reading, writing and math — will be turned away from the University System of Georgia and referred to technical colleges. The change will affect an estimated 2,000 students a year.

In fall 2005, 1,051 students were enrolled in remedial reading, English and math at Georgia Piedmont in Clarkston. This fall, 1,230 are. (If a student is enrolled in all three support classes, the student is counted three times.) Statistics show relatively few students taking remedial classes will graduate from the technical system within three years, another statistic that disturbs state lawmakers.

Only 7 percent of remedial students in the technical college system will earn a two-year associate’s degree within three years, according to a recent report. Overall, 20 percent of the system’s students will earn an associate’s degree within three years. Graduation rates count first-time students going full time, while many technical students attend part time.

Many lawmakers point to the state k-12 education system. Educators have wrestled with the issue for decades.  Colleges blame high schools for graduating ill-prepared students. High schools criticize colleges for not being clear about what students should know. K-12 leaders contend colleges fail to graduate well-equipped teachers.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

149 comments Add your comment

NY Teaching Vet

November 14th, 2011
11:42 am

I’m home sick today and not up to pointing fingers at anyone.

I do have one solution to offer:
Students should not be accepted if they score below proficiency on the Compass exam. Instead, they can be directed to work on their skills and then can be retested. Is it a perfect solution? No. Could it help? Maybe.

I wouldn’t just say “No” to these students – I’d offer some online solutions for remediation and have them try again. There are many free resources out there.

Beverly Fraud

November 14th, 2011
11:48 am

“I, along with many members of the Legislature, have deep concerns about the quality of k-12 education that makes remedial classes necessary in our post-secondary institutions, ” said Rep. Len Walker, R-Loganville, chairman of the House higher education committee.

No you don’t Rep. Walker so stop PRETENDING you do. Your concern is with PSEUDO concern.

If not, tell us what SPECIFIC legislation you have introduced, that mandates teachers get REAL and TANGIBLE support in matters of DISCIPLINE?

Tell us what SPECIFIC legislation have you introduced, that allows for CHECKS and BALANCES and protects teachers from ADMINISTRATIVE RETALIATION?

If you don’t EMPOWER teachers with AUTHORITY to discipline students who compromise the learning process, if you don’t protect them from RETALIATION when they try to address issues, then you are not, repeat NOT serious about education.

You are serious about PANDERING though.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

November 14th, 2011
11:51 am

Well thats just not fair and mean spirited. Oh wait thats another blog. I feel for these remedial students. Perhaps we should lower the standards so these individuals wont feel left out or discriminated against.

Fred

November 14th, 2011
11:54 am

How do they pass the entrance criteria if they can’t read the application? Or is the only entrance criteria money or a grant?

carlosgvv

November 14th, 2011
11:56 am

When I was in school, many years ago, there was no such thing as “social promotions”. If you could not do the work, you repeated the grade, period. Those who went to college seldom needed remedial courses, especially in reading, writing and English. Political correctness has taken over in our schools and the results speak for themselves.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

November 14th, 2011
12:04 pm

With all this crazy, new-fangled math its no wonder students are sent strait to remedial.

When I came thru elementary schools the standard was 1 + 1 = 2
Nowadays 1 + 1 can equal 1 or 2 or 11 or who nose?

Now in the movie 1984 1 + 1 can equal whatever the govt states and you best agree or its curtains for you!

;)

Beverly Fraud

November 14th, 2011
12:05 pm

@carlosgvv, if we WERE serious about education, THIS is the conversation we would have. Catch them while it’s EARLY, and do NOT promote them to first, second, or third grade until they are READY.

@carlosgvv it’s not TEACHERS pushing these students through the mill. It’s ADMINISTRATORS by and large. And SOCIETY, as we simply we don’t want to confront the fact that their are SIGNIFICANT numbers of parents who are not preparing their children for school.

Give teachers the AUTHORITY to stop this nonsense. Then, instead of having a BELEAGUERED teaching core, you have teachers EMPOWERED to teach. When you have that, then the DEADWOOD teachers float to the top, and you can easily cull the flotsam from the river.

Right now we are trying to hope against hope for the “cream to rise to the top” of the education CESSPOOL. And we wonder why their isn’t enough cream!

Instead, PURIFY the water, let the DEADWOOD teachers float to the top and cull them.

Beverly Fraud

November 14th, 2011
12:09 pm

It’s not the new math causing the problem Dr. No.

It’s the DYSFUNCTIONAL math. The math that says
Disruptive student + PHYSICALLY ASSAULTING a police officer = WEAK, three days off school PSEUDO consequence.

That’s the math that is DESTROYING the public schools.

Atlanta mom

November 14th, 2011
12:25 pm

The first thing we have to get past is the idea that all students should go to college. If you need remedial help, maybe you shouldn’t be there to begin with.

mathmom

November 14th, 2011
12:30 pm

I’d like to know how these numbers compare with the pre-NCLB numbers. Back then, if I remember correctly, some students were actually left behind because they could not or would not do the work. Now, we have standards that are low enough for everyone to be “proficient” so that nobody is left behind. Clearly, “proficient,” in the NCLB world, frequently has little to do with actually having mastered any content, but it leads too many students and their parents to believe that they are ready for post-secondary work when they are not.

www.honeyfern.org

November 14th, 2011
12:31 pm

How do we fix it?

How about not waiting until high school (or college) to worry about college readiness?

How about putting more time for reading in the day?

How about incoporating problem-based learning so that students can actually apply what they’ve learned?

How about raising standards in the classroom (CCS seems to be more of the same, just re-packaged and well-advertised. Just spent the weekend reading PARCC’s final draft of the content)?

How about identifying students who are struggling earlier and remediating then with 1-to-1 instruction?

How about teaching synthesis and evaluation instead of memorization?

How about giving teachers proper time, space and materials to teach what matters instead of cutting time out of their planning periods and entire school year for pointless PLCs and trainings for programs that won’t last the semester?

How about some common sense in the system?

How about technical training, smaller school communities that are more supportive, and active mentor programs that will stay with a kid for all four years, encouraging, berating and advocating to get them successfully through school?

And for everyone who is trumpeting “repeat a grade” and “end social promotion,” these are not the answer. There is zero research that repeating a grade helps and ample research that repeating a grade exponentially increases a student’s chance of dropping out. Come up with something else that actually helps.

Atlanta mom

November 14th, 2011
12:33 pm

At least twice in the AJC article, technical schools were referred to as “access colleges”. Therefore they can not increase admission standards.
Who made this designation? Is this a charge from the Board of Regents, or is this a reason the college presidents have stumbled upon to increase enrollment?

Tony

November 14th, 2011
12:37 pm

One way to overcome this problem is to encourage school systems to join forces with technical colleges in a way that allows students to complete a technical degree and high school diploma in tandem. Schools should encourage such partnerships, but the current single diploma pathway makes it difficult.

I Love Life Cereal

November 14th, 2011
12:45 pm

I don’t understand. There is already something in place called an “entrance exam” that is used by the advisor(s) to determine your need, if required, for remedial classes upon enrolling into a program and before taking your required courses.

Same as a real college-there are prerequisites that are normally followed.

What happened to this plan? Just ignored?

This is coming from me, a person who nearly failed high school (where my teachers DID NOT CARE), but graduated from a technical college in Georgia with honors, then later from AU with a difficult degree with honors as well.

In my experience, what my instructors initially told me when I enrolled at the technical school was true!: “Look around you. By halfway through the quarter, half of these people will have dropped out.

It was true!

Some people simply are not willing to do the work. They drag down the winners and & hard workers of the workforce and academic world.

long time educator

November 14th, 2011
12:46 pm

I agree with Atlanta mom that everyone does not need to go to college, but most need something past high school. Whatever test the colleges use to separate the remedial from the non-remedial should be used in high school as the high school graduation test. If you cannot pass it, you do not get a diploma. If there really are some that cannot pass it ever, give them an alternative vocational track where they graduate with a skill to earn a living.
NO Hope Grant money should be spent on remedial classes. Period.
I agree with Beverly that we need to stop social promotion especially in the primary grades. Give them time to learn to read before sending them on to upper elementary where reading is used to learn other subjects.Maybe we need to be more ungraded in K-3 until they meet a minimal reading level to pass on to 4th and 5th. Learning is developmental; kids can need 3-5+ years to master the primanry skills. This is where we need to offer year round school to help catch some of the kids up. PreK helps give some kids get that extra year to catch up. We need to take the stigma away from repeating a grade and give the kid the gift of time. They are not all at the same developmental level.

long time educator

November 14th, 2011
12:48 pm

PreK helps give some kids that extra year to catch up.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

November 14th, 2011
12:56 pm

The shame of it all falls on the parents. Imagine their shame, after 18 or so years, when its sudddenly and surprisingly revealed that their little einstein only qualifies to work at the door knob factory or as a pine-straw placement engineer.

Those poor parents. Oh the Shame…

Beverly Fraud

November 14th, 2011
12:56 pm

And for everyone who is trumpeting “repeat a grade” and “end social promotion,” these are not the answer. There is zero research that repeating a grade helps and ample research that repeating a grade exponentially increases a student’s chance of dropping out. Come up with something else that actually helps.

I would agree with you honeyfern, when it comes to the upper grades. But by then, you are retaining kids who are YEARS behind. Of COURSE it doesn’t help. I would caution to infer causality from repeating to dropping out. Much more likely is the fact that they were YEARS behind, not they were FINALLY kept back.

Catch them EARLY, and you are more likely to have success as even fourth or fifth grade may be too late.

Tony

November 14th, 2011
12:56 pm

Dr. NO/Mr. Sunshine – believe it or not, most schools do not allow such misrepresentations of 1+1. However, there are certain cases where 1+1=10. But few understand this.

mystery poster

November 14th, 2011
12:59 pm

Just to keep this in perspective, $36 million of $718.6 million is about half a percent.

JustWaiting

November 14th, 2011
1:00 pm

I also saw the article a couple of weeks ago, where it said teachers are retaking the certification test more than 3 times at a high rate. I guess they need remedial classes as well.

HS Public Teacher

November 14th, 2011
1:03 pm

I agree with most here.

Those students should not be in any college. Those are the ones that likely should not even have a high school disploma.

Too many after-high-school “institutions” open their doors to anyone willing to pay or go into dept for tuition. And, even if those students graduate the odds of them finding meaningful employment is low.

HS Public Teacher

November 14th, 2011
1:05 pm

@Beverly Fraud….

I have come to believe that there is a percentage of students that just won’t get it. They could repeat a grade ten times and they still just won’t get it.

What to do with those? That is the real question!

By the way, let’s assume that they have had a ‘good’ teacher to remove any comments regarding that part.

mystery poster

November 14th, 2011
1:05 pm

Correction: 5%

Jennifer

November 14th, 2011
1:07 pm

I think the answer is obvious. Parents and schools need to make sure that students in K-12 have the necessary skills for college level work.

Isn’t that what the graduation tests are supposed to be doing ? Now the public realizes just what the graduation test and proficiency cut off scores really mean. Minimal, and I mean minimal proficiency.

citizen

November 14th, 2011
1:11 pm

Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice stated last night on CSPAN that she could look at a zip code and realize the educational needs of that area. I would love to have that information for Georgia and then hold those systems accountable. I work with adults and I find the individuals with a lack of interest in obtaining or recalling information go all through life without ever escaping the cycle of being in the lower economically challenged state.

Maureen Downey

November 14th, 2011
1:11 pm

@Mystery, The issue isn’t just what is spent on the remedial courses, but also the lost investment to the state when students do not finish. Those who need remediation are less likely to finish.
Maureen

Hank

November 14th, 2011
1:12 pm

Three points: (1) Why have the trade schools all become technical “colleges”? We have many students who need to learn a good trade, not a “college” degree. (2) When high school students are given chance after chance after chance to pass high school courses and exit exams, many of them will eventually hit the required mark through luck or chance without mastering the curriculum. (3) Remedial education has become the technical college system’s cash cow. Can you really blame them for milking it for all it’s worth?

long time educator

November 14th, 2011
1:13 pm

HS Public Teacher,
That’s why we need a vocational track in high school. Most below average students who are not truly intellectually handicapped can master a 6th-8th grade level curriculum. When I taught HS, my general ed students were operating at about that level. What they need in HS is vocational education. No one should be forced to take it, but at least offer an alternative. It is a wonder we don’t have a higher drop out rate since we only have one track.

Principal Skinner

November 14th, 2011
1:15 pm

Dr, No/Mr (Orange) Sunshine

“a pine-straw placement engineer”

Awesome! I’m stealing that

Judy

November 14th, 2011
1:22 pm

How many times, as reported by the AJC did teachers need to take the certification test? Well, there you have it!

ExEducator

November 14th, 2011
1:24 pm

There are several factors that are leading to more remediation classes in both academic colleges and technical colleges. 1. ALL Students are not college material. 2. Parents need to be more involved in their children’s upbringing with more visits to the library for recreational reading development and therefore a development of a love for reading not juswt to get those accelerated ” reader points. Parents need to read to there children at a young age and do the “story-telling” that most of us that are over 50 grew up to. 3.High schools need to demand that all students that receive a diploma actually pass the course work and receive the actual grades they make rather than “giving” them a 60 minimum so they can pull it up to passing the last grading period of a semester. K-12 schools should be preparing students for the real world of either post graduate work or a lifetime of work whichever is coming after graduation and parents should demand it.

Scott

November 14th, 2011
1:25 pm

I’ve been on both sides of this fence in Georgia. I taught high school math under the old curriculum, high school math under GPS, and I now teach at a technical college (both on-level and remedial courses). So I’m uniquely qualified to speak to the issue, although it’s just one person’s informed opinion, and I will focus on the math side even though reading is equally important.

1. It’s not the new math curriculum. Under the old curriculum, many high school students struggled to pass remedial-level Algebra 2. They were so poorly prepared for college that colleges started requiring an additional year of instruction past Algebra 2… leading to the creation of “Algebra 3″. Today’s students struggle to pass “Math 2″ and “Math 3″ but the content is very much the same. The new curriculum is somewhat more ambitious but as I recall there isn’t that much difference besides the order of presentation.

2. There is plenty of blame to spread around on the public school systems, but the colleges are simply doing their jobs. The idea that “High schools criticize colleges for not being clear about what students should know” is completely bogus in my opinion. If high school students were held accountable for the stated high school curriculum, college readiness would not be an issue. But for years the Georgia HS Graduation Test has been laughably easy, with most problems at a 9th grade level, not the 11th grade level, and far short of a college readiness test.

When students arrive at college, they are tested for what they really know and then placed into remedial classes accordingly. So when we have an excess of remedial assignments, don’t blame the colleges. They are assessing the students properly. The shame is, it’s for the first time ever. The blame lies squarely on a k-12 system that fails to ensure that students leave with the required knowledge.

3. The reasons for the problem are well documented. I myself have identified them in editorials and blog posts on many occasions. To briefly summarize the known key problems… grade inflation and lack of student accountability. Students fail middle school math, or receive A’s and B’s due to effort without understanding, then fail or barely pass a “way-too-easy” CRCT. Almost none of these unprepared students are held back. They arrive at high school en masse, lacking study skills, motivation, and math knowledge (not to mention reading deficiencies).

High school teachers can challenge them and fail them (the appropriate grade for many) until they catch up after retaking 9th grade math two or three times. However, there is great pressure to “play the game” and give inflated grades to keep parents and administrators off their back and keep failure rates down. Most of the popular teachers are playing the game. Students make it to Junior year but they are still far behind. Principals implement massive tutorial programs for Juniors. Many of them can finally squeak by the low standards of “way-too-easy” state testing. But they are still not college ready.

Why aren’t they ready? Because we waited until they were 16 years old and 5 grade levels behind to make students learn anything. If we would just start this in 6th grade instead of tech college, wouldn’t we save everyone a lot of time and expense… and start graduating students who were truly college ready?

William Casey

November 14th, 2011
1:25 pm

I agree with TONY that the single track high school diploma creates difficulties. It seems that we have made “college” the only acceptable path. Compare the % of high school graduates who are allowed into higher education today with fifty years ago. Has student intelligence and diligence increased suficiently since then to warrant this? Doubtful. Perhaps it is good to provide opportunities but we shouldn’t be all that surprised at the need for remediation.

William Casey

November 14th, 2011
1:29 pm

@SCOTT: one of the best posts I’ve ever seen on this topic. Great job!

long time educator

November 14th, 2011
1:31 pm

Scott,
Thank you for your post. I totally agree except that I think the accountability needs to start back in the primary grades.

GT grad physics teacher

November 14th, 2011
1:32 pm

Tony, counting in Binary numbers ; very base 2 of you ;-)
BTW, none of my Physics/Calculus students have ever needed remedial classes. In fact, most are at the top of their calc and physics college classes.

Don't Tread

November 14th, 2011
1:33 pm

“How do we fix that?” Three words: “End Social Promotion”

If you don’t learn the material, you don’t pass the class, and if you don’t pass enough classes, you don’t graduate. That’s how it was when I went to school. Artificial grade inflation is useless.

Woody

November 14th, 2011
1:36 pm

Well, this story tells me that there are a significant number of high school students who are totally elsewhere mentally during school, but who for one reason or another do actually wise up and try to restart in community college. Where remediation is a big opportunity for them. Sorry only 7% of those make it through; but it is probably true that it is not the function of a college to take someone from near-zero to sixty in 5 or 6 months. So, maybe we need a different kind of institution whose function IS to college-prep folks once they finally wake up. Asking many of these folks to wake up while they are actually in high school, probably too much to ask. But I’m all for giving folks a second chance if it helps the state of the state. Which should be the end value: it helps Georgia.

a high school teacher

November 14th, 2011
1:37 pm

As a high school teacher I will soon be having a meeting with a parent whose child has a 504 plan. This parent is demanding that her child be passed. Guess what will happen? The school will bend over backwards to accomodate the parent for fear of a lawsuit. In most cases, who is to blame for students not being successful? The answer is PARENTS.

Jackie

November 14th, 2011
1:38 pm

You can only become a “pine straw placement engineer” after counseling with your “facilitator” and getting advice from your “relationship Manager” and seeking the approval of your “assistant vice director in charge of community organizations and, properties.”

Fat man in Georgia

November 14th, 2011
1:42 pm

Being as how I work in a Technical College and attend classes here, I want to toss in my 2 cents worth. It had been many years since I attended High School before coming to college and I scored 1 point under what was needed for college algebra. Taking the remedial course was the only way I passed algebra. That is the case with many adult students who are returning to school at a later age. That is one thing that I think has thrown the totals off a bit. There should be a different tally done for those coming right out of high school and those returning to school later in life.

As far as students coming from high school, there are plenty of practice test that teachers in high school could give students so they can see in which subject they are falling behind in and prepare them for the test in advance.

@Tony: There are programs where high school students can dual enroll, students need to check with their guidance counselor or with a technical college that has a program they want to do.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

November 14th, 2011
1:43 pm

“Those who need remediation are less likely to finish.”

Speaking from experience, Absolutely true.

long time educator

November 14th, 2011
1:44 pm

@a high school teacher,
I feel your pain. The tail of special education and 504 is wagging the dog of public school. But, is there not still a high school graduation test? If a student is unable to pass it, do they still get a diploma?

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

November 14th, 2011
1:44 pm

“Dr, No/Mr (Orange) Sunshine”

;) I like it!

wondering

November 14th, 2011
1:46 pm

@Tony

Is 1+1=10 binary?

jimmy john

November 14th, 2011
1:48 pm

High school education is by and large a joke. The school system where I work offers “remediation” classes to students who are “lagging behind” their peers. This means that the goof offs go to some “remediation”class for 20 minutes a couple of time a week and after two or three weeks the miracle or “remediation” kicks in and the newly minted little Einsteins are promoted from freshman to senior just in time to flunk the super dumbed down Georgia High School Graduation Test for the fourth or fifth time. There should be vocational classes in all high school and maybe some of these scholars could learn to be electricians, plumbers, hair dressers, or secretaries. Anything that might enable them to make a living and relieve the rest of us from having to support these “less fortunate” individuals.

One Person's Opinion

November 14th, 2011
1:49 pm

a high school teacher just said it best. If the parents would hold their child accountable as opposed to holding the teacher accountable for their child’s failures, it would be a more successful school system all the way around. I am married to a teacher and I know first hand that an involved parent can highly influence the success of their student / child. Moms and Dads, your child follows your example. Do it right! It’s not always the teacher’s fault!

sharecropper

November 14th, 2011
1:52 pm

Good grief. This is the system that Newt Gingrich gamed to steal taxpayers’ money. What do you expect?

One Person's Opinion

November 14th, 2011
1:55 pm

long time educator, you are right as well. In many cases a group of 20 students have to be denied some service they should receive in order for the one student who is doomed to fail anyway, gets all the attention and the extra services, which includes much of the funding. If your child is not able to keep up, it’s not my child’s fault.