Business: A solution to the remedial mess

teachforamerica

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TFA: A way to curb the need for remedial work?

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s Bill Blazar writes on the LearnmoreMN blog that the state is putting too much into remedial education in college, and calls for change in the K-12 system.

He advocates alternative teacher licensure as a way to get professionals more quickly into the classroom without having to go through the usual teacher education route.

Colleges and universities should “become active supporters of alternative licensure,” in part by developing curricula for such teachers — as Hamline does for the Teach for America program.

He adds:

Institutions also could adjust admission requirements: Accept students only if their respective high schools provide the remedial work so students are ready for college.

Earlier this year, I read some sobering stats on the cost of remedial coursework. It was brought on by a Rochester Post-Bulletin article in which Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. President Gary W. Smith — who recently won a primary for a school board seat — told the paper that 60 percent of students who graduate high school for Rochester Community and Technical College need remedial education.

(“Batting .400 is nice” in baseball, he said, but not in education.)

That makes Rochester’s remedial studies rate higher than the community college average of 42 percent posted by the Associated Press earlier this year, though an RCTC spokesman said that high rate may be due to his college’s higher-than-average standards.

(For comparison: For four-year colleges, about a third of all students have taken a remedial course.)

The kicker? A 2008 study quoted in the story said almost four out of five people in the remedial courses had been B students or better in high school.

There has long been a debate over who is to blame for the remedial mess. Colleges say students arrive unprepared. K-12 officials say colleges aren’t training aspiring teachers well enough. It’s an issue that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently jumped into at a meeting of higher-ed and school leaders in Minneapolis, where he urged greater collaboration between the two systems.

As it is, as soon as graduates walk off that high school graduation stage, they simply become the concern of the next institution. Should the education system deal with the issue in the first stage or the second? Or should the state combine both into a K-14 or K-16 system?

(Former DFL gubernatorial candidate Matt Entenza advocated a merger of the state Department of Education and the Office of Higher Education, but that might be a different issue.)

In any case, handling it at the second stage is expensive, as the AP story points out:

The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates the nation loses $3.7 billion a year because students are not learning basic needed skills, including $1.4 billion to provide remedial education for students who have recently completed high school.

The Alliance president puts it bluntly: “From taxpayers’ standpoint, remediation is paying for the same education twice.”