State to cut KSU’s remediation funding

Audrey Fletcher

Forty percent of students at Kent State start their college careers in remedial math classes. About 10 percent start in remedial English.

Two years from now, Kent State will lose all state funding for these remedial classes, leaving faculty wondering what will happen to students who need these courses.

The Remediation Problem

Students begin at the remedial level because they have not demonstrated college readiness.

Students who score low enough on an ALEKS placement test must take remedial math courses.

Andrew Tonge, chairman of the math department, said students who enter the lowest level of remediation often score about a 17 on the math ACT.

Professors would rather be teaching college-level math, Tonge said, but professors need to teach the material that students need to learn.

“Right now, it’s very clear that if you want students to be able to learn and understand mathematics at the college level, then most of the students coming to Kent State or any other university need some extra preparation,” Tonge said.

Kent State used to offer remedial math in a traditional classroom setting but recently replaced this model with the Math Emporium.

Students complete their work on a computer software program called ALEKS, which tracks students’ progress and does not let them move forward in the course until they have demonstrated knowledge of the topics.

Students who score a 16 or lower on the English ACT are placed in the remedial English Stretch program, which allows students to take one English course during one year instead of during one semester.

“I think some people just take longer to learn what they’re doing,” said Geraldine Winter, the coordinator of the Stretch program. “It’s why we stretched our program out; give them a little more time to practice and work at it. They’re getting over that anxiety of ‘Oh my god, I can’t do this.’”

The Plan

Jim Petro, the chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, said all funding for remedial education will be eliminated in the next two years.

This plan will affect 10 major four-year public universities in the state, not including Youngstown State, Shawnee State and Central State, Petro said, because these schools are more open to students who may not have the needed preparation.

Petro said statistics show that remediation is not always the best track for students.

Even students who are behind, who receive tutoring and support, have a better opportunity to complete a college-level course than those who go through remediation, Petro said.

“What this demonstrates is at the college level, at the university level, remediation has been a waste of time and money,” Petro said.

Provost Todd Diacon said the plan would not affect Kent State’s regional campuses. He said he does not oppose remedial education being phased out, but will rethink general math requirements for each major.

Petro said the plan to move away from remediation and advance college readiness is a joint obligation between himself and the state superintendent of public instruction.

“We have the ability, when an assessment program is in place, to ensure college readiness coming out of secondary school,” Petro said. “We have the ability to end the Ohio Graduation Test, which I suspect we will do in the next two years. In the meantime, we need to replace anything in Ohio that exists currently with better tools to assess student readiness and then to fill in the gaps where student readiness is not demonstrated.”

Currently, students in Ohio high schools must complete the Ohio Graduation Test, or OGT, to graduate high school, and there is a major initiative in the state to move away from this test, Petro said.

Through more testing throughout a student’s career, including end-of-course exams, ACT readiness tests and the ACT itself, the hope is students will have a better idea of their college readiness.

Petro said the state would pay for students to complete these tests.

The new testing could start as early as next year and will be required by the 2014-2015 school year.

Filling the Gap

Tonge said he wonders how cutting remediation will work as students continue to arrive at college unprepared.

“Given the situation in the schools, saying that we’re not going to remediate is probably not a very realistic position,” Tonge said. “Some of the students are coming in with second or third grade knowledge in mathematics.”

Tonge said funding for universities is available to build relationships with high schools to identify what needs to be done to bridge the gap.

Mark Black, executive director of secondary schools at Akron Public Schools, is in charge of ensuring college and career readiness for students in the district.

“The colleges are behind in what we’re trying to do at the high-school level,” Black said. “There’s a disconnect. We’re trying to pre-assess students to prove and show that their GPA is equal to their college and career-readiness standards.”

This includes testing throughout students’ schooling to inform them how they would score on the ACT, Black said. This allows them to see if they are college- or career-ready.

Black said most students have their high school requirements completed in their junior year. During the junior year, Black said the district would pay for all juniors to take the ACT.

Then, he said, students will move on to dual-credit and college-level courses their senior year and, if they don’t demonstrate college readiness, they will complete remediation while still in high school.

Black said it is important for universities to do their part and provide some support for students who may need extra help.

Petro agreed that universities should provide tools for students to get through their first college-level courses without remediation.

“What [remediation] does more than anything else is discourage people from continuing college, and that’s the wrong message,” Petro said. “We want to help them through the actual introductory course, not the remediation course, and give them credit for it when they pass it, and keep them in school.”

At Kent State, Diacon said if students need remedial education, the regional campuses can attend to that need. He said because remedial class funding will go away, the university can look into adapting the Math Emporium for other introductory-level classes.

Black said the problem of remediation is an endless cycle of blame. Colleges blame high schools, high schools blame middle schools, middle schools blame elementary schools, elementary schools blame pre-kindergarten and pre-kindergarten blames parents, he said.

“There is never a simple solution,” Black said. “The key is to find something that is seamless from middle school to high school to college and sustainable and aligned to that end result or that career path that child is aspiring to.”

Fixing the problem

The Ohio Board of Regents conducted a study in 2008 that showed 41 percent of all Ohio freshmen at public colleges and universities require remediation in math or English. Ohio’s Race to the Top program is part of a federal program designed to ensure college and career readiness among students. The key projects of the program are:

1: Provide Professional Development Curriculum Resources to Support Teachers

-give them information explaining the new standards

-will ease the transition to the new standards

2: Strengthen Assessment Leadership

-create a more comprehensive assessment system

-give students an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills

-give students feedback so they can learn from their results

A High School-Higher Education Alignment Initiative was developed through Race to the Top. Fourteen partnerships of high schools and colleges and universities were awarded grants to advance the following goals:

-align curriculum between high schools and universities so that remediation rates decrease

-align teacher preparation programs

-provide the ongoing exchange of data between high schools and universities

Contact Audrey Fletcher at [email protected].