More than half of community-college students in the U.S. take at least one remedial class, according to the Community College Research Center, at the Teachers College of Columbia University. This typically comes after students fail to pass proficiency exams in math, reading or writing.
But educators and policy makers increasingly are concerned that shunting students immediately into catch-up classes—which students must pay for even though they garner no credits—deters too many from completing their studies. States are trying alternatives, from adding basic tutorials to college-level classes to weighing high-school grades in addition to test scores.
Florida has gone further by making placement tests and remedial classes entirely optional for students who recently graduated from a state public high school or are active-duty members of the military. Proponents see the law, which took effect in January, as a way to give students more control by letting them decide how big a challenge to take on and where to devote their resources. But some educators—including Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padrón —fear the legislature went too far.