Remediation Reform: An Essential Part of Campus Equity Efforts

January 2016

During faculty workshops, we often ask people to raise their hands if their institutions are taking certain steps to address equity. Their responses follow a predictable pattern. Are they examining data on student outcomes, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, and offering support for students in underrepresented groups? A lot of hands go up. Providing faculty development opportunities in culturally responsive pedagogy and shifting from deficit- to asset-based approaches? Still several hands, but fewer. Prioritizing diversity in hiring? Fewer still. And how many institutions are working to identify how their own structures areproducing inequities, and then changing those structures? Very few hands, and uncertain expressions around the room.

In the California Acceleration Project (CAP), we help faculty understand that the policies and curricula that higher education has developed to help students who are considered “underprepared” are actually making these students less likely to succeed in college—and further, that students of color are bearing the brunt of the unintended consequences. National research shows that

  • the standardized tests that colleges use to determine who is and is not “college ready” are being increasingly discredited as poor predictors of student capacity (Belfield and Crosta 2012);
  • students of color are disproportionately placed in multiple semesters of remediation based upon these tests (Witham et al. 2015);
  • with each layer of remediation, students become less likely to complete college-level courses and make progress toward a degree or transfer (Bailey, Jeong, and Cho 2009);
  • reforms that enable students to avoid or accelerate remediation are producing large gains in completion of college-level courses and narrowing achievement gaps for students of color (e.g., Coleman 2015).

CAP is a faculty-to-faculty professional development network focused on transforming remediation in community colleges, where the above problems are most acute. CAP helps colleges increase student completion of transferable gateway courses in English and math, which are critical to building students’ momentum toward longer-term goals.

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Publication: Diversity and Democracy (American Association of Colleges and Universities)
Author(s): Katie Hern and Jennifer Brezina

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