Harford County Public School graduates who enrolled in a college preparatory curriculum in high school needed remedial college classes in math, English and reading at rates higher than the state averages in 2008. But after one year in college, HCPS grads outperformed their peers in all three subjects according to a 2011 report by the Maryland Higher Education Commission. The turnaround may indicate that HCPS graduates are capable of above average performance in college, but as a group they are not as prepared upon entering college as are their Maryland peers.
Based on data from the Class of 2008, the latest Student Outcome and Achievement Report (SOAR), shows that among the Harford County Public School graduates who took a college prep curriculum in high school and enrolled in a Maryland college, 38% were required to take remedial math courses; 18% needed remedial English and 17% needed remedial reading.
The remediation rates for HCPS graduates were higher than the state averages in all three subjects and remediation rates were higher, and also above the state averages, for HCPS high school graduates who had not taken a college prep curriculum, as indicated in the table below. (Please note: students who took a college prep curriculum in high school are classified as “core”; students who did not take a college prep curriculum are classified as “non-core”)
Among other limitations, the SOAR report does not track Maryland high school graduates who attend an out-of-state college and only includes students who took either an SAT or ACT exam.
Remediation Rates Highest at Maryland Community Colleges; Remediation Rates at Harford Community College Exceed State Averages for Community Colleges
Looking at the data another way, the SOAR report broke down remediation rates by college institution. Given their open enrollment policies, the report shows the average remediation rate was significantly higher for the subset of 2008 Maryland public high school graduates who first enrolled in a Maryland community college as opposed to a four-year institution. For example, among the Maryland Class of 2008 who took a college prep curriculum in high school and went to a Maryland community college, 61% needed math remediation compared with 15% of their peers who attended a Maryland public, four-year institution and 8% of the group who attended a private, four-year college in Maryland.
At Harford Community College, remediation rates in math, English and reading were above the state averages for community colleges in 2008. While the SOAR report does not provide specifics, the vast majority of Maryland public high school graduates in any one year who attend HCC immediately following high school are from Harford County Public Schools.
According to SOAR, among the members of the Maryland public high school Class of 2008 who took a college prep curriculum and enrolled in Harford Community College, 68% required remedial math; 34% needed remediation in English and 30% needed assistance in reading. Remediation rates were higher for HCC students who did not take a college prep curriculum in high school. The SOAR comparison of remediation rates by Maryland institution appears in the table below:
Students pay tuition to take remedial courses in college and because remedial classes are non-credit, such students also lose time on the way to earning a college degree. To address the problem, Harford County Public Schools offers remedial college classes to high school students, but only in three out of the ten comprehensive county high schools. Programs in place at Bel Air, Edgewood and C. Milton Wright high schools offer Harford Community College’s remedial math course, allowing students to become ready for college math while avoiding the cost of college tuition for a remedial course.
Harford County Public School Graduates Outperform State Averages Following First Year in College
Despite needing remediation at rates that were higher than the state averages, the SOAR report found that by the end of their first year in a Maryland college, students from the HCPS high school Class of 2008 outperformed the rest of the state in all three subject areas and earned higher grade point averages.
Diploma to Nowhere: High Remediation Rates Are a State and National Problem
Remediation rates have been on the rise in Maryland colleges, especially in math, where the remediation rate for students who took a college prep curriculum in high school jumped from 23% in 1998 to 35% in 2008, the most recent year for SOAR data. The increase prompted the following warning from the Maryland Higher Education Commission in June 2011:
“Given the need for Maryland to produce more college graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, and the SOAR finding that students are more likely to require remediation in mathematics than in any other subject, the recommendations included in the final report of Governor O’Malley’s STEM Task Force (2009) must also inform statewide conversations about decreasing remediation rate.”
The 2011 SOAR also recommends that plans be implemented to collect data about students from Kindergarten through their college years and to adopt the new Common Core curriculum. Along with a sharing of best practices for college success, the report also urges that “more robust data regarding the pathways and outcomes of students who require remedial courses must be collected and carefully analyzed.”
The problem of high remediation rates is not limited to Maryland. Researchers from Strong American Schools, a nonpartisan campaign supported by The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found high remediation rates to be a nationwide epidemic in a 2008 report entitled “Diploma to Nowhere”.
Estimating in 2008 that the national cost of remediation in taxpayer-subsidized public colleges exceeded $2 billion dollars, the report included a call for higher standards in public high schools. Among the report’s more pointed and chilling conclusions:
“College remediation isn’t just a problem of urban high schools, aging cities, and lower tax rates. This is an issue that affects middleclass students from middle America with middling academic skills. In many ways, our education system has been perpetrating a terrible fraud, because the high school graduates who require college remediation are often the ones who did everything that was expected of them. They went to good schools, they posted high GPAs, they took difficult classes. Teachers and parents told them that they would do well in college. But when these students enrolled at their local flagship university or near-by community college, they failed the math placement test. They were shunted into remedial reading.”
College remediation is one of the most serious education issues facing our country, and policymakers and educators must address it immediately. Our economy, our security, and our government, all depend on a steady supply of college-educated graduates.”