Could High Standards Mean the End of Remediation in Higher Ed?

Evidence in Tennessee says yes. Data released this week as part of the Tennessee Higher Education fact book show a significant change in the state’s remediation rates. The percentage of college freshmen who needed math remediation went from 71 percent to 55 percent in the past four years. This means that more students attending higher education in Tennessee are more prepared for college-level coursework.

This is big.

Being prepared for college-level coursework before you enter college means a number of things – but most importantly, it is an undeniable signal that you learned that you were supposed to in high school (which is sadly not the case in far too many states). It also means that students don’t need to spend time taking (and paying for) non-credit bearing courses when they enter high school and are more likely to complete their college education.

Research from Ed Reform Now and Education Post found that one in four first-time, full-time college freshman need remediation, costing their families nearly $1.5 billion annually.

So where do high standards come in?

As an early adopter of high standards – the Common Core State Standards, to be exact – Tennessee’s students have had the benefit of these more rigorous academic benchmarks for longer than students in many other states.

The state has also implemented a new, innovative program that brings remedial college-level classes into high schools. The success of this program is dependent upon early identification of students that are not yet on track to graduate – something that the Common Core and high-quality aligned assessments have made possible. Because of this program, a higher percentage of students are identified as not being ready while still in high school, and can be placed in a course with greater support to keep them on track.

A recent brief from Higher Ed for Higher Standards also discusses the importance of high-quality assessments (Common Core-aligned assessments that measure how students are progressing) as early college readiness indicators – so that students don’t have to wait until they arrive at an institution of higher education to find out that they aren’t prepared. The brief notes, “Early warnings from rigorous, 11th grade assessments can help close preparation gaps before postsecondary enrollment, reducing time and money spent on non-credit-bearing coursework.”

So while we can’t attribute all of Tennessee’s success to their high academic standards, we think they are a major contributing factor to this positive trend of more and more Tennessee students arriving at college ready for action!

Blair Mann is the Director of Media Relations at the Collaborative for Student Success.