November 20, 2006

Remedial education in college

Good article on the growing need for college remediation.

Joe Bagnoli graduated from Ashland Holy Family High School with a 3.7 grade-point average and with A's in four years of college preparatory math courses -- algebra I and II, geometry and trigonometry.

So it didn't add up when he took a placement exam as a Berea College freshman in 1984 and learned that he wasn't quite prepared for college math. It took one hard week of work in a remedial math course for Bagnoli to get caught up.

Welcome to the real world, Joe. Your K-12 school(s) were long on lofty rhetoric and short on actual math teaching. But, being prepared to do college level math is the acid test. Calculus and Physics will test how well your school taught you algebra and basic math. If you don't understand algebra and haven't developed a good degree of automaticity in it, you won't be able to apply all that algebra in solving calculus and physics problems. Oh, and by the way, you'll be learning a lot of calculus and physics at the same time, not leaving you with much time to re-learn algebra.

So, how widespread is the problem today?

Currently, 53 percent of entering students at the state's public universities and community and technical colleges need at least one remedial course, according to a recent report from the state Council on Postsecondary Education. The report also showed that 44 percent are not ready for college math, 32 percent are not prepared for college English and 25 percent do not have college-level reading skill.

Pretty widespread, I'd say. So, what's the problem?

"What we do is developmental education because students are developing basic skills that are needed for success," she said. "It's nothing remedial because there's nothing about these students that needs to be fixed. They are not broken. They need preparation."

The basic skills of college are the higher order skills of K-12. But, when you get right down to it it's all basic skills to somebody. Know enough basic skills and sooner or later when only a small segment of the population has those skills, we start calling them higher order skills. But, they're only basic skills to the guy on the next level.

Anyway, read the whole thing.


Anonymous said...

I noticed the paragraph
But it's best not to say "remedial education" around Cain, EKU's director of transition and university services in developmental education. She insisted recently that the term "remedial education" not only stigmatizes students, it's just flat-out wrong.

There's some term, isn't there, for the replacement of one word as it becomes stigmatised by another, to which exactly the same thing happens? I can't recall it at the moment.

I did notice a newspaper article in NZ saying that the Ministry of Education had a report talking about "additional needs" rather than "special needs" kids, as "special needs" had negative connotations.

KDeRosa said...


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Please reference the following left at Kitchen Table Math

Says it all

Anonymous said...

I apologize I did not realize till after I left the post that the on at KTM was your post

KDeRosa said...

I thought that article looked familiar.

Anonymous said...

Not just a "euphemism" - it's a word for how euphemisms change, as the new euphemism acquires the negative connotations of the previous word - which was in the first case a euphemism itself.

So we have undertaker, then mortician, then funeral director. (To pick a non-political example). Or all the different words for toilet - and toilet itself was a euphemism at some point.

It's the word for the process I'm trying to remember.

KDeRosa said...

Tracy, I know the process you're talking about, but can't think of the specific name for it.

One cool word I recently discovered is retronym which is the use of a modifier to convey the original meaning of a word that time/progress has caused to change. For example, first we had the word guitar which described all stringed guitar-like acoustic instruments, then we invented electric guitars, so we had to go back and rename non-electric guitars to acoustic guitars.