According to new studies from the Teachers College at Columbia University, many community colleges are placing students in remedial classes when the students do not actually need them. The schools are relying on the students’ scores on standardized tests, but the studies show that they would be better able to place students in the appropriate classes if they relied on the students’ high school GPAs instead.
Most students would not like to take remedial classes if they do not have to, and the reason why this is makes a lot of sense. Remedial classes are a waste of money and time if students do not actually need them because they do not receive any credit for these classes. In fact, more than 75 percent of students who start out taking remedial classes in college do not earn a degree, and this could be simply because they get burned out taking remedial classes.
“We hear a lot about the high rates of failure in college-level classes at community colleges,” said Judith Scott-Clayton, a professor at the Teachers College and the author of one of the studies. “Those are very visible. What’s harder to see are the students who could have done well at college level but never got the chance because of these placement tests.”
The placement tests that Scott-Clayton is referring to are most commonly the College Board’s Accuplacer and the ACT’s Compass. These tests have been used at many schools since the 1980s to determine what classes students should be placed in, based on their scores on the tests. Many students are told not to prepare for the tests because they are only used for placement, but this can lead to students being placed in classes that are not the appropriate level for them. According to the two new studies from Columbia University, schools would do well to rely less on these tests and more on the students’ high school GPAs as an indicator of the students’ abilities.
The trend is being seen in schools across the country.
“I haven’t seen the studies, but what I do know is that when I talk with leaders of community colleges, a lot of them have issues with the diagnostic tests and sense that far too many students are being put in developmental, remedial education, especially in math,” said Walter Bumphus, president of the American Association of Community Colleges. “Almost every one of them has some plan to change that.”