Thursday, March 3, 2011

Three-Fourths of New York Community College Students Have Remedial Issues

Hey, tell me about it.

At New York Times, "
CUNY Adjusts Amid Tide of Remedial Students":
The City University of New York has long spent much of its energy and resources just teaching new students what they need to begin taking college-level courses.

But that tide of remedial students has now swelled so large that the university’s six community colleges — like other two-year schools across the country — are having to rethink what and how they teach, even as they reel from steep cuts in state and local aid.

About three-quarters of the 17,500 freshmen at the community colleges this year have needed remedial instruction in reading, writing or math, and nearly a quarter of the freshmen have required such instruction in all three subjects. In the past five years, a subset of students deemed “triple low remedial” — with the most severe deficits in all three subjects — has doubled, to 1,000.

The reasons are familiar but were reinforced last month by startling new statistics from state education officials: fewer than half of all New York State students who graduated from high school in 2009 were prepared for college or careers, as measured by state Regents tests in English and math. In New York City, that number was 23 percent.

Many of those graduates end up at CUNY, one of the nation’s largest urban higher-education systems, which requires its community colleges to take every applicant with a high school diploma or equivalency degree.

To bring thousands of students up to speed, those colleges spent about $33 million last year on remediation — twice as much as they did 10 years ago. They are expanding an immersion program that funnels hundreds of students exclusively into remedial classes.

But there is concern that the effort is diverting attention from the colleges’ primary mission.

“It takes a lot of our time and energy and money to figure out what to do with all of these students who need remediation,” said Alexandra W. Logue, the university’s executive vice chancellor and provost. “We are doing some really good things, but it’s time that we’re not thinking about our other wonderful students who are very highly prepared. We need to focus on them, too.”
More at the link. And be sure to RTWT. The article rightly notes that this is a national problem, and professors are complaining that community colleges have been transformed into institutions of extended education --- 13th grade, as my wife likes to remind me. And sure, while the problem isn't new, the shockingly high and rising levels of those needing remediation is generating heightened attention. I've discussed this at length on my campus, especially during the collective bargaining negotiations where most of the institutional discussion has been on wages and benefits. And that's not new either. Just about every year a new report comes out in California on the declining numbers of students who graduate in normative time. It's especially bad for minorities, who of course are those most disadvantaged historically and most in need of education and workplace skills. But community college accreditation authorities are obsessed with establishing institutional learning objectives (SLOs) as measures of college effectiveness. It's crazy. Ask any professor in a transfer-level GE offering and they'll tell you skills are lacking, discipline is compromised, social and technological changes have created debilitating distractions for many, and large numbers of students are overwhelmed with work and family issues (and too many young students are having babies themselves). But hey, don't touch my benefits!