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Few Ky. Seniors Take Remedial Courses That Could Help Them Prepare for College

Relatively few Kentucky high school seniors participated in optional remedial math and reading courses, but those who did had an average statewide pass rate of 90 percent in those classes.

Those are the findings of a new study, "Participation and Pass Rates for College Preparatory Transition Courses in Kentucky,"  published by REL Appalachia, which is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education.

The study compared three groups of Kentucky 12th graders for 2011-12: those meeting state benchmarks, those approaching state benchmarks, and those below state benchmarks. The courses were designed for students who were approaching state benchmarks, but any student could enroll. The courses are intended to prepare students to enroll in college credit-conferring courses and increase their likelihood of success in college.

College enrollment rates among students from rural communities are a problem nationwide. About 31 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in rural areas were enrolled in higher education in 2009, compared with about 46 percent in urban areas and 42 percent in suburban areas.

In this Kentucky study, just 28.1 percent of students who were approaching state benchmarks took the transition courses in math, and that figured dropped to 8 percent for the reading courses. Still, for those students who took the courses, the pass rates were 94.7 percent for math and 96.1 percent for reading.

These finding can help "districts and schools as they work to increase college readiness in grade 12 and offer ideas for potential follow-up studies," according to the report's author, Christine Mokher.

She identified multiple gaps in research relative to college-prep transition courses, such as:

  • Identifying other interventions to increase college readiness.
  • Learning more about the content of transition courses.
  • Identifying how students choose to enroll in transition courses.
  • Examining whether students who take transition courses retake and score higher on the ACT, and whether pass rates in transition courses correlate with postsecondary outcomes.
  • Assessing the impact of transition courses.

Mokher also offered some suggestions for the Southeast/South-Central Educational Cooperative, a research alliance focused on reaching the Kentucky legislature's goals of reducing the need for college remediation and increasing college completion. The coop includes 24 of the state's 174 public school districts, and those were used for comparison in the study.

One of her recommendations was to pool resources across districts to offer transition courses. The coop includes many small, rural schools that might lack the resources to offer transition courses.

"These schools could consider distance learning options to allow for collaboration in offering courses," she wrote.

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