S.S. Colorado Turns Slowly on Remediation: Let's Hope for No Icebergs

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or so it seems. The article in today’s Denver Post, headlined “Nearly one in three Colo. graduates needs remedial courses in college, study finds”, almost could have appeared the year before … or two years ago … or the year before that.

To be exact, the new report from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (PDF) finds that 29.3 percent of Colorado’s 2008 high school graduates who attended a Colorado two-year or four-year college needed formal remedial help in math, reading and/or writing.

Six years ago my Education Policy Center friend Marya DeGrow completed an issue paper on the same topic, titled Cutting Back on Catching Up (PDF). Using the same CCHE data, she noted that 26.6 percent of Colorado’s 2002 high school graduates needed remediation — at a cost of $18.9 million to the state of Colorado and $15.4 million to the college students themselves.

As the remediation rate has grown by 10 percent in the past six years, one is left to wonder if the cost for remediation has grown by a similar amount (i.e., nearly $21 million for the state and $17 million for students).

The Post‘s Jeremy Meyer writes today:

Remediation rates haven’t changed much over the past few years, but state officials are confident that a new system in place to align Colorado’s K-12 schools with higher education will begin to show results.

“This is like turning a big ship in the middle of the ocean,” said Colorado Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien. “I’d say in the next two school years, we would begin to see kids more on grade level.”

I do hope the lieutenant governor is correct. Because at the current rate of turning, it would be best to know there are no large icebergs ahead of us. I’m not saying Colorado has a “titanic” problem, at least not yet. But we do need to wake up and have all hands on deck.

Maybe more modeling after the highly successful Denver School of Science and Technology charter school would be a promising approach.