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Can Community Colleges Protect Both Access and Standards? The Problem of Remediation


by Dolores Perin — 2006

A large number of community college students have difficulty with postsecondary-level reading, writing, and math demands, necessitating remedial education. A qualitative case study was conducted to investigate state and institutional practices for remediation in 15 community colleges selected for region, size, and urbanicity. The six states in which the colleges were located varied on the level of regulation of institutional remedial policy and were placed on a spectrum ranging from laissez-faire to micromanagement. Most of the states and all the institutions in the study required the assessment of students' academic skills, and the institutions mandated assessment even when the states did not require it. The types of assessment instruments varied, and subjective measures such as institutional tests, course grades, and student self-report played an important role in placement decisions. The colleges tended to require that low-scoring students attend remedial courses even in the absence of a state mandate. A wide variety of practices were used to determine student readiness to advance in or exit from remediation. Many of the institutions had procedures designed to require remediation early in the student's program, but both assessment and placement mandates appeared to be softened either at the state or institutional level, with the effect of reducing the number of students who were required to enroll in remedial courses. This trend is discussed as a struggle between the access mission of the traditionally open-door community college, and the drive to protect educational standards.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 3, 2006, p. 339-373
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12328, Date Accessed: 4/29/2017 7:16:26 AM

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About the Author
  • Dolores Perin
    Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University
    E-mail Author
    DOLORES PERIN is associate professor of psychology and education, coordinator of the Reading Specialist Program, and senior researcher at the Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research interests include policy, curriculum, and instruction for academically underprepared adolescent and adult students. Her publications include “Institutional Decision-Making for Increasing Academic Preparedness in Community Colleges” (2005) and “Effects of Text, Domain and Learner Variables on the Academic Writing of Developmental Reading Students” (2003; A. Keselman and M. Monopoli, coauthors).
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