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Remedial Classes for Too Many Students

The application season that closed in April was the most selective one ever.  Colleges and universities reported receiving record numbers of applications.

Yet a new study by Education Reform Now, a nonprofit think tank, found that nearly half of students who take remedial courses upon entering come from middle- and upper-income families ("Guess Who's Taking Remedial Classes," The New York Times, May 10).  According to the Education Department, that means overall about one in four take such classes in math, English or writing. (Fifty-seven percent of students in remedial classes attend public community colleges.  The rest are enrolled in other schools, including private four-year nonprofit colleges and universities.)

It's unclear why students from families in the top 20 percent of income nationally in private, nonprofit four-year colleges take more remedial courses than students from families in the bottom 20 percent at the same colleges. But the large percentage of students even from high schools in affluent suburbs who need to take remedial classes once admitted to college calls into question assumptions about their reputation.  It's always been inner-city schools that have had the reputation for failing students academically.  Perhaps the blame needs to extend to suburban schools as well. But I suspect that too many students from even supposedly excellent high schools are not college material.

That's not to belittle efforts to narrow the opportunity gap between students from inner-city schools and from affluent suburbs ("These 2 teens with similar backgrounds took very different paths to college," Los Angeles Times, May 12).  On the contrary.  But I would like to know how students from both kinds of schools fare after they are admitted.  I think getting this feedback would be invaluable.  Yet it is rarely reported by the media.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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