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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