If you sometimes get tired of hearing about the need for public school reform, we can't say we blame you. The debates never seem to let up, and progress in student achievement often appears hard to come by.
But then you see a report such as the one last week from the Colorado Department of Higher Education on remedial education, and you realize the obsession with reform is not only appropriate, it's positively vital.
To begin with, according to the report, "40 percent percent of students in the Colorado high school graduating class of 2011 who enrolled in a state public college or university were either assessed as needing remediation or enrolled in a remedial course in at least one academic subject." And no, they're not all at community colleges (as if that would make it all right). While 66 percent of those enrolled in a two-year college did indeed need remediation, so did 24 percent of students at four-year institutions.
This is important for many reasons. For starters, it says our schools aren't succeeding with an alarmingly large number of students who are motivated enough to enroll in post-secondary education. And it indicates that these same students and taxpayers are being saddled with huge extra costs, $39 million and $19 million, respectively, at a time when post-secondary bills are already pushing too many deep into debt.
The state's report, which uses a new methodology that captured a larger number of students than before who needed help, emphasizes several strategies for addressing the problem. Two of our favorites include "self-paced online 'remedial' classes" that allow students to catch up, and giving high school seniors who know they're going to need special help the option of enrolling in remedial college classes so they can "go straight into college-level work when they arrive on campus."
But of course the only real solution to the problem of so many students graduating unprepared for college work is to improve the education they receive in K-12 schools, beginning at the early grades, and especially those serving high numbers of at-risk students.