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Florida Colleges Make Plans for Students to Opt Out of Remedial Work

Dear Commons Community,

Entering college freshmen in Florida needing remediation will soon have the option of bypassing basic skills courses if they wish.   Florida state lawmakers voted in May to make such courses optional for most students. Starting next year, recent high-school graduates and active-duty military members in Florida will have the choice of whether to take the courses or even the tests meant to gauge students’ readiness for college-level work.  According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required):

“…the prospect has sent a wave of anxiety across the state’s 28 community and state colleges, which all have open admissions. Their fear: that an influx of unprepared students could destabilize introductory courses and set those who will struggle up for failure. The colleges have become ground zero in a national battle over remedial education, a field whose current models aren’t working, say even its most ardent supporters. Several organizations—including Complete College America and Jobs for the Future, both backed by groups including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation—have been pushing to reduce the number of students who end up in noncredit remedial courses. Based on the argument that remedial education, as currently delivered, is ineffective, the groups have persuaded lawmakers in Connecticut, Tennessee, and other states to pass laws channeling more students directly into credit-bearing courses…

…Colleges have until March to present the state with a plan for how they’ll overhaul remedial education, offering new options to support less-prepared students. Those plans must take effect by the fall of 2014, but colleges will start rolling them out next spring.

Across Florida, colleges are struggling with the new mandate. William D. Law Jr., president of St. Petersburg College, concedes that remedial education hasn’t been working but thinks that allowing students to place themselves is asking for trouble.

“When you ask an 18-year-old student, ‘Would you like to opt out of developmental math?’ I’m guessing I know the answer more often than not,” he says. “I’m really worried about what this is going to look like two to three weeks into the semester, when students have that ‘aha!’ moment and say, ‘I should have chosen a different level.”

Tony

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