Still Too Many Colorado High School Graduates Need Help Catching Up

High school and college are still a long ways off for me, but I found this interesting for those of you who are interested in education.

A recent report from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (PDF) found that 29.9 percent (that’s almost 3 in 10!) of Colorado public high school graduates entering Colorado public colleges and universities in 2007-08 needed remediation. Wow, that’s a mouthful! And as Ed News Colorado points out, it isn’t good news, either:

Remediation costs at least $27.6 million a year, $14.6 million in state tax dollars and $13 million in tuition paid by students, the report said. (The actual cost is higher, because some remediation costs, such as summer school, weren’t included in the total.)

“It’s unfortunate,” said Gov. Bill Ritter, that money is spent on remediation “instead of investing those funds in financial aid, classroom instruction and innovative research. We can and must do better.”

But has Colorado been doing better than in recent years?

Marya DeGrow, one of my friends in the Education Policy Center, wrote an Issue Paper five years ago titled Cutting Back on Catching Up: Reducing the Need for Remediation in Higher Education (PDF). Back then she identified the remediation rate at 26.6 percent. It’s only grown slightly worse since then.

That kind of news is a bit discouraging. Results are bleakest among students who graduate from Denver’s West, Montbello, and Abraham Lincoln high schools – followed by Aurora Central and Adams City. In all of these schools, more than 70 percent of their graduates at Colorado public postsecondary institutions need remediation.

The bright spots? Some of the same ones that fared well on the latest round of School Accountability Reports – including charter schools and an option school into which students choice. Jefferson County’s D’Evelyn Junior/Senior High School was the most outstanding at only 5.6 percent. Not far behind was The Classical Academy. Affluent area high schools like Cherry Creek and Boulder’s Fairview High School also did well, as did mountain community high schools like Buena Vista and Middle Park.

Colorado can do better at reducing the need for remediation. Getting quality teachers into every classroom and quality instructional leadership at the school level are two vital steps.