Home > Uncategorized > About the Remediation Ruckus

About the Remediation Ruckus

September 3, 2014

I am proud to work in public education. That means wherever I go, I am willing to teach or support the education of any child who shows up. Yes, we teach them all. The smart ones. The well-behaved ones. The talented ones. The adorable ones. The ones who struggle. The ones who test our patience. The ones who, bless their hearts, just try so hard. The ones who sometimes are hard to appreciate. We do it because they matter – all of them.

This separates us from our friends in private schools. I don’t doubt the hard work they do. Nor do I begrudge them the working conditions they’ve chosen. In many cases, they teach for lower salaries and have less job protection than public school teachers do. The trade-offs are more parental involvement and fewer requirements to acquire their teaching positions. In any case, they teach children who have chosen to be there, and whom the school has chosen to accept. At any point, the school, if certain conditions are not met, can send them back where they came from. Public schools can’t do that; as such, comparisons between the two are rarely meaningful.

That’s why I found the Oklahoman’s foray into the discussion over college remediation rates a bit disingenuous. You’re shocked, I’m sure. The graphic below shows how they compared public schools to private schools when it comes to college remediation rates.

But who doesn't love a stacked deck?

But who doesn’t love a stacked deck?

As you can imagine, the fact that the schools on the left are also high-poverty high schools never comes up either. Since I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like data out of context (which reminds me – A-F Report Cards are just around the corner!), I thought today was a good day to dust off the correlation machine (by which I mean Microsoft Excel) and explore the relationship between two sets of numbers. First, I would look at the high schools – all of them – and see what other statistics correlate to a school’s college remediation rate. In all, I ran 10 tests. Since there are 454 schools in the dataset, the results all maintain statistical significance.

Things Correlating to College Remediation Rate

Free/reduced lunch % 0.56 Moderate, positive
Household income -0.38 Moderate, negative
College-going rate -0.35 Moderate, negative
Parents with college degrees -0.33 Moderate, negative
Parents not completing high school 0.33 Moderate, positive
Student mobility 0.30 Weak, positive
Absentee rate 0.28 Weak, positive
Special education percentage 0.27 Weak, positive
Single-parent families 0.22 Weak, positive
Students completing college-bound courses 0.01 Non-existent

Here’s a reminder of what these numbers mean, for all of you who haven’t had a stats class in a while. All correlation values fall between zero and one (or zero and negative one). For positive relationships, the numbers go in the same direction. For example, as free/reduced lunch rates go up, so do college remediation rates. For negative relationships, the numbers go in opposite directions. For example, as household income goes up, remediation rates go down.

Based on accepted convention, none of the relationships would be described as strong. The top five variables would be described as moderate, with the two indicators of poverty ranking at the top. Interestingly, the schools with more students going to college seem to have fewer students needing remediation. I guess that indicates something about expectations. It should also come as no surprise that parental education is also a factor in college remediation rates. It would seem that first-generation college students who come from a background of poverty struggle at the beginning of college.

Just on the outside of moderate are the next four relationships. Although the strength is not as pronounced, the relationship is nonetheless there. Schools with a lot of mobility and a lot of special education students are more likely to have higher remediation rates than schools without those challenges. This makes sense, but it says a lot about the schools that these relationships are weak. Additionally, students who are frequently absent and those who come from single-parent families (two statistics that often correlate as well), tend to need remediation at higher rates too.

Surprisingly, the correlation between the percentage of students completing college-bound courses (students completing all the ACE required courses, as opposed to those whose parents opt them out of the ACE requirements) is non-existent. I’m struggling to explain this one. Maybe it means that we place too much value in taking choices away from kids. Maybe, if students had fewer required courses for graduation and more students could pursue their actual interests, we’d have more college-ready freshmen.

To make things interesting, I picked two schools from the Oklahoman’s graphic and plugged some numbers into a spreadsheet. From the 12 public schools represented on the above bar graphs, I selected two. See if you can figure out which is which from the data below:

Statistic School A School B
Free/reduced lunch % 18% 81%
Household income $98,568 $44,588
Parents with college degree 51% 18%
Parents not graduating HS 4% 16%
Absences per student 8.6 14.6
Mobility rate 5% 11%
Students in special education 11% 14%
CareerTech program participation 16% 68%
Oklahoma college-going rate 69% 41%
Out of state college going rate 10% 5%
Oklahoma college remediation rate 15% 55%

Obviously, School A serves an affluent population with parents whose own experiences lead to high academic expectations. School B has a lot of poverty and mobility. More students are steered towards the career part of College & Career Readiness. Overall, though, it appears more students at School B have some sort of a post-secondary plan.

I took the easy way out. I used the school in the middle of each side of the graphic. School A is Edmond North High School. School B is Muskogee High School. If you want, you can look up data for any school in the state. The more information you have, the more complete your picture is.

When any reasonable person knows the whole story, simple accountability measures, such as the A-F Report Cards, just don’t impress. Muskogee High School, for all the challenges faced by the students and teachers there, seems to have the vast majority of their students thinking about something after high school. And that is why we’re here.

Whether the State Regents decide to certify PASS as C&CR…whether the USDE gives us back our waiver at some point…whether Congress eventually rescinds No Child Left Behind (which is long overdue), we have high schools all over this state, serving all kinds of student populations, that are helping children prepare for life after the PK-12 world we occupy. Career Tech is part of that picture. So is college. And so are choices that can’t be captured statistically. That doesn’t make them less valid or meaningful.

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  1. claudiaswisher
    September 4, 2014 at 8:59 am

    ACE curriculum DOES take choices away from kids. I had a principal friend say he would opt his own grandchildren OUT of ACE, then choose those challenging classes anyway. Nothing’s stopping kids from doing that, and they will have more freedom to explore interests in high school. We HAVE systematically taken choices away from our students in this frenzy to be ready for the next stage of education.

    Bravo MHS for encouraging TechCenter participation.

    As always, your analysis gives me much to think about.


  2. Another Anonymous Educator
    September 4, 2014 at 10:00 am

    The difference between ACE and the requirements for “opt out” students are minimal; both are college-prep programs. Remember when high school actually gave students several real choices about their educational pathways?

    Here’s the other thing you might check out about college remediation rates — the differences between community colleges and 4-year schools, and the differences between students who go directly to college and those who take a few years to earn some money before they enroll in college. The differences between full-time and part-time students would be interesting, too. College admissions offices actively encourage people who haven’t been doing academic work for a few years to take their remedial courses….we should also mention that those courses are pure moneymakers for the institutions — lowest-paid instructors, no credit hours, same tuition.


  3. September 4, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    I get very irritated at this whole discussion for two reasons. The first is fairly simple. For too long we have told children and their parents that everyone must go to college to be a success. What about trade and vocational schools? What about apprenticeships? These are paths to success also. There is nothing wrong with these and the idea that college is for everyone is ridiculous. Secondly is the idea that so many kids really need this remediation. I have worked at community colleges. The entrance tests are the reasons these students are taking remedial college courses. Most new students must take a test that is supposed to place them in the right math or English class. Depending on this ONE test they are placed in regular or remediation classes. As Another Anonymous Educator wrote, these are total money makers for the schools. They do NOT count towards a students degree. Students earn NO credit for these classes. They cost the SAME amount as any other course.


  4. Corey Holland
    September 5, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    Nice work. The entire remediation discussion troubles me. You touched on a few aspects of concern but the discussion is much broader. One example: State colleges and universities determine remediation standards on a college by college basis and one thing they certainly do not consider or even look at…..EOI scores. Of course our state places A LOT of emphasis on EOIs (graduation, A-F, teacher TLE, etc) and therefore so do public schools. So do I focus on EOIs for reasons above or ACT which is more desirable for colleges? Throw in revamping standards and then trashing them and starting new……what a mess.
    Another example: Colleges also have a lot to gain by having students take remediation classes—especially OLAP students. By them taking remediation classes (and the tax payer funding OLAP scholarships) the colleges have students much more likely to remain in school longer than 1 yr. The state graduation college rate is at around 50% over SIX years (can you imagine if my high school was that bad….wow) says there’s a lot of money going out but not leading to diploma. All I’m trying to say with those examples is the remediation issue is more complex than most make it.
    I asked Glen Johnson (head of regents) in a budget meeting after he kept complaining of having to remediate students, “doesn’t higher Ed then take responsibility for this situation seeing as how 85% of our teachers graduate from your schools?” You would think he would be interested in tying all this accountability stuff to higher eds teacher Ed programs. You would be wrong. Instead, He made it clear he didn’t appreciate the question and that my friends is the problem. Too many in the discussion more concerned with assigning blame & not enough working TOGETHER to take ownership of situation and find a solution. And so the wheels on the bus just go round and round.


  5. Linda Murphy
    September 18, 2014 at 6:18 am

    You have provided an excellent, clear and indisputable analysis which gets to the root of the real differences in school performance. Any reasonable person who can read and understand this article should see why A-F report cards for schools are an unfair and inaccurate tool being used by “reformers”. Thank you.


  6. September 18, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    I am a career teacher in one of the poorest counties in Oklahoma. Our A-F Report Card wasn’t very good, as far as grades go, but I guarantee you, our students are learning and our teachers and support personnel are pouring every ounce of energy they have into educating our kids. For the same reasons listed above, many of our beginning college freshmen take at least one remediation course. ACE EOI scores have to be transcripted, but colleges don’t give a rip about them. They are meaningless in the grand scheme of things! Many of us (educators) have former students who make double or triple our salaries and they have never set foot in a college or university! They apprenticed, started their own companies or took various certification “short courses” for their jobs. Come to think of it, most of us didn’t truly learn to teach until we had our own classes.


  1. September 6, 2014 at 2:17 pm
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