- Allowing high school students to take remedial courses or allowing college students to take “co-requisite” courses while also taking college-level classes are two ways to increase the number of credits that students earn by the end of their second year in college, according to a new article based on study published in 2019.
- High school students in Tennessee’s Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support, in which students enroll in an online remedial course if their junior year ACT scores demonstrate a need, earned an additional 4.6 additional college credits by the end of their second year at a higher ed institution, compared to students from schools that didn’t have the program, according to the study led by Thomas Kane at Harvard University.
- But the benefits of the program were “modest’ and did not increase students’ chances of completing a degree in two years. Meanwhile, a 2015 Tennessee policy allowing college students to take a remedial math course at the same time they take a college-level math course was found to be slightly more successful at helping students pass college math.
Tennessee is among states moving in the direction of allowing students to take co-requisite courses along with college-level courses to reduce the “time tax” of remedial courses and the costs associated with taking courses that don’t come with any credit.
Research has shown students who take remedial courses in college are less likely to graduate. Tennessee also stands out for informing students of their remedial status while they're still in high school, which can help families be far more prepared rather than being hit with the unexpected in the midst of the transition to college.
The researchers found both SAILS and the co-requisite policy were successful at “opening the doors to college-level course work.” But they suggested remediation alone is not “a solution for students who emerge from high school with weak math skills.”
Angela Boatman, an associate professor of higher education at Boston College and one of the co-authors of the study, offered one possible explanation for why the co-requisite policy was more effective: “Because co-requisite remediation provides support to students alongside their college-level course, this ‘just-in-time’ remediation may be more effective than asking students to recall content from their high school remedial course.”
In addition, she said, it’s possible there is more “course/instructor alignment” when the remedial course is taken at the same institution and at the same time as the college-level course.
In the paper, the authors also note the SAILS program was a self-paced, online course, which might not be the best format for students struggling in math. Another approach at the K-12 level, the authors note, is to double up on algebra for students who enter high school behind in math.
Overall, the researchers conclude increasing college completion rates will require that students receive more help in “navigating their way toward a degree.” Other programs that provide “comprehensive, integrated and long-lasting student supports” have also been successful at increasing success outcomes.