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Report Calls for Common Yardsticks on College Remediation

To combat the need for remediation in college, experts need a clear picture of the problem. However, new research finds wide variation among states in how remediation is measured and reported.

The Education Commission of the States discovered 30 states report annually on the number of incoming students who are placed in remedial classes (also known as developmental education), but there was little consistency in how students were counted and monitored. Others have no tracking systems.

Although high schools could benefit from knowing just how many of their students were unprepared for college, just 13 states sent information back to K-12 systems about their graduates' remedial needs, according to the report released July 2. Only 12 tracked remedial students' progress in college-level courses.

ECS a Denver-based research nonprofit, came up with recommendations to address the problem, as the result of ideas generated from a steering committee of elected officials, state education policy officers, and education experts assembled last fall. A technical subcommittee of the group issued a companion report with a model national framework for reporting on college remediation rates and practices.

ECS suggests a new framework should be user friendly, avoid a "blunt ranking" of states by focusing on student progress; be used to evaluate the effectiveness of remedial reform initiatives, and incorporate multiple college-readiness indicators.

When the Common Core State Standards are fully implemented in 2015, ECS notes there will be consistent ways to measure college readiness across most states. Still, the report said these efforts largely focus on the likelihood of students' success in college-level courses, but there is not a corresponding uniform definition of what it means for students to be college ready at the postsecondary level or how the new standards will affect the number and types of students taking remedial classes in college. However the issue is resolved, ECS maintains that reliable, comprehensive data on remediation is needed to improve on-time, college-completion rates.

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