More students need remedial classes

Aug 2, 2015 by

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At least half of students from all districts took one or more such classes

High school students from throughout the county are arriving at Community College of Allegheny County with more academic needs.

CCAC data for the high school class of 2014 showed that 78 percent of students from throughout the county needed at least one remedial class — sometimes called a developmental class — at CCAC. Eight years earlier, the figure was 68 percent.

Such classes cost the same as regular classes but do not count toward graduation, thus adding time and expense to earning a degree. About a third of the students need to take at least one remedial class in all three possible areas: math, reading and writing.

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In some school districts, all of the students entering CCAC from the high school class of 2014 needed at least one remedial class. That includes East Allegheny, Highlands, Northgate. Steel Valley and Wilkinsburg high schools. In Pittsburgh Public Schools, the average was 90 percent overall. The largest number of city students — 45 — came from Brashear, and 96 percent of them needed to take remedial classes.

In all school districts countywide, at least half of their students arrived placing into at least one remedial class. The smallest percentage was 53 percent of the 19 CCAC students who graduated from South Fayette.

Combined, 1,752 from the class of  2014 from county school districts and other schools enrolled at CCAC, and 1,355 needed to take at least one remedial class.

Of the issue of students arriving unprepared for college-level work, Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Linda Lane said, “I think that’s broader than the county. If you look across the nation, I think this is a significant issue schools are facing.”

Mrs. Lane said there are several possible factors. She noted some high-achieving city high schools also have high rates of CCAC students needing remediation. “Kids in higher performing high schools are more likely to go to more competitive institutions than CCAC,” she said.

She said Pittsburgh Promise scholarships, which began for city students with the Class of 2008, may enable some stronger students who would have gone to CCAC to afford to more competitive schools.

While she said she did not have enough data to explain the full picture, Mrs. Lane said, “We think it’s extremely important for all of the kids to be prepared. … The day when you could not read well or not be able to do math very well and still go into a really well compensated job, those days are pretty much gone.”

She added, “The other side of it is, I would rather have them at CCAC taking remedial classes than not at school at all.”

Mary Frances Archey, CCAC executive director for strategic college initiatives, said some students don’t take the courses needed in high school to prepare for college and decide at the last minute to attend.

Whether a student has to take remedial classes depends on the results of placement testing. Some students are exempted from the placement testing, including those who already have a college degree, have taken college-level English or math and earned at least a C; or have scored a 520 or higher on the math portion of the SAT college entrance exam and 510 in critical reading on the SAT. They still would be required to take the writing placement test. Some courses, such as psychology, do not require a placement test.

Ms. Archey said students can practice in advance and can take the test twice.

CCAC has several strategies for helping students to catch up, offering “success coaches” beginning in 2011 followed by math cafes and learning commons where students can go at their convenience for help. In spring 2015, the success coaches worked with more than 1,116 students who placed into three or more developmental courses.

If a student drops in the math cafe or the learning commons at least three times a semester, said provost Gretchen Mullin-Sawicki, “Their success rates are increasing.”

With the initiatives, Kevin Smay, assistant vice president for strategic planning and institutional research, said the data show some increases.

Some of the changes are small but viewed by the college as promising. For example, the percentage completing the developmental program in two years grew from 38 percent for those entering in fall 2008 to 40 percent for those entering in fall 2012.

Source: More CCAC students need remedial classes | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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