Remedial Education Fixes Won't Cure Completion Crisis

August 5, 2019

Even Tennessee's promising remedial math reform does little to boost college completion, new study finds, calling for more effective models as part of suite of student success efforts.

Remedial course work has long been viewed as a primary barrier to college completion, a black hole from which relatively few students emerge to earn a credential after being placed in the typically noncredit courses in mathematics and English.

Yet a new study found that reforms to remedial education, even a promising one that reaches back into high school, do little to move the needle on students’ credit completion or the likelihood of earning a college credential.

“We were hoping we’d see bigger effects on credit accumulation,” said Thomas Kane, an economist and Walter H. Gale Professor of Education at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, who still said the program was worth keeping and improving.

As a result, the study found that focusing student success initiatives on clearing or changing requirements for college remediation -- which has occurred via state policy in Florida, Texas and California -- will not substantially improve the nation’s college completion crisis.


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