College readiness is one of the issues that keeps community college leaders awake at night. It’s more difficult to focus on enrollment, retention, and student outcomes if nearly half of the incoming class isn’t prepared to succeed – without remediation – in a credit-bearing general education course at a postsecondary institution that offers transfer to a baccalaureate program.
The college readiness crisis was underscored recently by new postsecondary remediation data released by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), which shows that 48.7 percent of Illinois high school graduates who enrolled in Illinois’ community college system after graduation required remediation in at least one subject.
For the first time, the Illinois Report Card now reports the percentage of graduates at the state-, district-, and high school-level who attended an Illinois community college after graduation and were enrolled in remedial courses. Illinois students had the highest remediation rate in math, with 41.1% requiring additional preparation in the subject before advancing toward their degree.
In a press release, State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D., said, “With the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test, Illinois is equipped to focus on the question of how ready are our children for what’s coming next?” He added, “The postsecondary remediation data is an important tool to help us determine how much support our children need when they leave our care.”
Remediation, sometimes called developmental education, is designed to help prepare students who are considered not yet ready for the rigor of entry-level college courses in core academic subjects including reading, math, and science. Community colleges may require students to take remedial courses if they need additional preparation in order to earn credit from college-level studies. These courses trigger tuition costs, but students do not earn college credit.
This is why college readiness is one of the topics that The Advocate of Affordable College plans to write about on an ongoing basis.
Smith also said, “Our state and our families literally cannot afford to invest additional time and money for students to acquire the skills and knowledge they should have received during their preK-12 journey.” He added, “We must change that, and our new assessment system will help us better gauge students’ college and career readiness before they advance to the next grade level.”
The 2015 data is based on the graduating Class of 2013 and has been matched with Illinois Community College Board course data. Highlights include:
Success in two Illinois school districts that saw at least 33% of their students – all of whom were deemed ready for credit-bearing coursework – enroll in the Illinois community college system.Mixed results in districts where at least 12% of graduates enrolled in community college: Three districts had no students taking math remediation, while eight had 70 percent or more in math remediation.Challenges in five districts where 80% or more of graduates who enrolled in Illinois community colleges required remediation. With at least 12% of graduates from these districts enrolling in Illinois community colleges, remediation is an issue for too many Illinois high school graduates.
ISBE’s remediation data does not include remediation rates for students at four-year colleges in Illinois or students who enrolled in schools outside of Illinois. It also does not reflect the preparation of students who did not continue their education past high school. To protect student privacy, high schools with fewer than 10 students enrolled in an Illinois community college were redacted.
The Illinois Board of Higher Education will soon collect remediation data and work with ISBE to connect this information to high school districts. The Advocate of College Affordabilityapplauds these efforts and our blog have some suggestions to offer, as well.
Unfortunately, college readiness continues to be defined primarily in terms of high school courses taken and grades received along with scores on national tests as its primary metrics. We believe that it’s time for a new definition of college readiness that differs from current representations of this concept primarily in its scope.
According to “Redefining College Readiness,” a report prepared by David T. Conley of the Educational Policy Improvement Center (EPIC) for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2007, research has shed light on several key elements of college success. For example, a range of cognitive and metacognitive capabilities, often described as “key cognitive strategies,” have been consistently and emphatically identified by those who teach entry-level college courses as being as important – or more important – then any specific content knowledge taught in high school. Key cognitive strategies include: analysis, interpretation, precision and accuracy, problem solving, and reasoning.
Close behind in importance is knowledge of specific types of content knowledge. Several studies have led to college readiness standards that specify key content knowledge associated with college success. Although Illinois students had the highest remediation rate in math, writing may be by far the single academic skill most closely associated with college success. Nevertheless, the “big ideas” of each content area are also very important building blocks.
Similarly important are the attitudes and behavioral attributes that students who succeed in college must demonstrate. Among these are study skills, time management, awareness of one’s performance, persistence, and the ability to utilize study groups. These are both specific skills and more general attitudes, but all of them require high degrees of self-awareness and intentionality on the part of students as they enter college.
That’s our point of view. However, there may be other key elements of college success that we’re overlooking. And The Advocate of Affordable College wants to know what you think about this important topic. Please share your thoughts in the comments area below or over at ourCollege Transfer Pathways LinkedIn Group.
Greg Jarboe is the editor of The Advocate of Affordable College and the former editor of the Knowledge Transfer blog. He’s also the president and co-founder of SEO-PR, an instructor at the Rutgers Business School, the content marketing faculty chair at Market Motive, as well as the author of YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day.