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Bad News in Colorado Remediation Rates Renews Call for Transformation

I usually don’t like talking about bad news, but sometimes it has to be done. When it comes to Colorado high school graduates needing extra help in reading, writing and math at Colorado colleges and universities, the news is just that: bad. Despite the positive higher education angle headlined by the Denver Post, there’s no doubt that from a K-12 perspective things are moving in the wrong direction.

Two days ago the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) released its annual report detailing the in-state academic remediation rates for post-secondary students. The bottom line?

Overall, the percentage of first-time recent high school graduates placed into remediation in at least one subject increased by 11 percent from the previous year (31.8 percentage points in 2010-11 from 28.6 percentage points in 2009-10).

Those figures include all schools. If you isolate public schools, the statewide remediation numbers rose from 30.7 percent in 2009-10 to 33.9 percent in 2010-11. Ed News Colorado has performed the valuable service of breaking out the last six year’s numbers for users to search by school district, or even individual high schools.

For an even longer-term view, you can check out an analysis of remediation rates from eight years ago (2002-03) in my Education Policy Center friend Marya DeGrow’s issue paper Cutting Back on Catching Up. The CCHE report then revealed that 26.6 percent of public high school graduates needed some kind of remediation — which amounts to more than a 27 percent increase over the past eight years!

Going back to Ed News’ posted data, we see a mixed bag of largely negative trends among Colorado’s five largest districts from last year (2009-10) to the most recent results (2010-11):

  • Jefferson County: 25.8% to 28.6%
  • Denver Public Schools: 59.0% to 58.9%
  • Douglas County: 20.5% to 21.5%
  • Cherry Creek Schools: 26.8% to 28.5%
  • Adams 12: 31.0% to 39.1%

Hopefully, someone out there can dive deeper into some of the numbers and give us a better picture of which schools are struggling… and perhaps even some concrete answers to the question “why?”. I’m sure almost no one is satisfied with the progress or the results in the area of remediation. Any suggestions that more money simply be poured into the status quo model need to be greeted with a hefty dose of skepticism, though. Bring on the education transformers