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Math Remediation Stalls for Students at Low End

A new study from the Community College Research Center suggests that, for students with the lowest preparation in math, the longest developmental sequence offers little benefit and may even reduce the likelihood of earning a degree to certificate within four years. Here is the abstract.

This study is one of the first attempts to compare the academic outcomes of students assigned to long sequences of developmental math education with the outcomes of students with similar academic skills but assigned to shorter developmental math sequences. Results from this study “inform the national effort in reforming remedial education, especially in terms of whether shortening the long remedial sequence would either benefit or harm the academic outcomes of students who are least prepared for college-level coursework,” according to the authors,  Di Xu and Mina Dadgar.

The findings of this study should not be terribly surprising to those who follow the debate over the future of developmental education. Those who argue that “less is more” when it comes to remediation, or even see developmental education as a barrier to students, will find the report consistent with their views.

Another way of looking at it, however, is to simply underscore the task ahead when it comes to students with extremely low skills in math. Some individuals—even high school graduates—don’t understand simple arithmetic. Getting to algebra will be difficult to put it mildly. Perhaps a compressed time frame is a better approach. It sort of resembles the “total immersion” technique of learning a foreign language, which works better for many than taking one course at a time.