And you thought trying to compute high school graduation rates was complicated. Try figuring out the percentage of students who need "remedial" work once they enter the hallowed halls of higher education. Estimates range from a low of 42 percent of students in two-year institutions and 20 percent in four-year schools, to as many as 60 percent of community college students and 60 percent of university students, too (according to U.S. Education Department and university studies). Why the discrepancy? Probably because there's no definition of "remedial." Moreover, schools employ a legion of tests to decide which students need extra work (California's community colleges, for example, use more than 100 different tests), which is costly, too. So a student at, say, the University of Wisconsin who is deemed ready for credit-bearing college-level courses may be tagged as a remedial case at the University of Minnesota. What's the answer? Stanford's Michael Kirst has a good thought: "secondary and postsecondary education systems need to create a process to define and measure remediation based on curriculum content and assessment standards for specific subjects." Sounds like exactly what the American Diploma Project creates the possibility for, and why Achieve is working with states to adopt it.
"Who Needs It?: Identifying the proportion of students who require postsecondary remedial education is virtually impossible," by Michael Kirst, National Crosstalk, Winter 2007