Nationally, 34 percent of recent U.S. public high school graduates require remedial instruction before they can take regular college courses.
In Montana, the percentage needing “development” classes has been reduced to 30 percent from nearly 37 percent over the past six years, as Gazette reporter Mary Pickett told readers in a Sunday front-page story. The number remains shockingly high. More than one in four recent high school grads need a remedial math course before they can take a college math class.
Part of the problem may stem from differences between what’s required for high school graduation and what’s needed for college admission and success. Let’s start with high school graduation requirements:
2 years of math.
2 years of science
3 years of English.
The Montana Board of Regents admission requirements for four-year university campuses include:
3 years of math with student being encouraged to take math in their senior high school year.
2 years of lab science.
4 years of English.
The “rigorous core” established by the Montana Board of Regents for advanced students who want to apply for the MUS Honors Scholarship requires:
4 years of math with a grade of C or better.
3 years of lab sciences.
4 years of English including a course focusing on composition or research writing.
Students can graduate from high school having passed only algebra I and geometry in their freshman and sophomore years. That often isn’t enough math to succeed in college algebra four semesters later.
“Two years without math will leave you a little rusty,” Gail Surwill, SD2 curriculum director, told reporter Rob Rogers recently.
Parents need to recognize this gap and advocate for college readiness. Elementary school is the place to start. Young students need to develop basic skills and confidence in their abilities to learn and master core academics. Growing up with the idea that “I’m not good at math” or “I can’t write” is an obstacle to future college success.
Most students in K-12 schools today will need postsecondary education to get a good job. College readiness must become the rule, not the exception.
According to Montana University System statistics, a higher proportion of students admitted to two-year colleges need remedial classes. Students in the community colleges are more likely to be people who didn’t plan on going to college or people who didn’t enroll in college for years after high school.
Some students aren’t ready to learn college prep skills in high school, so there will be a continuing need for developmental courses in college. However, the sooner students learn good study habits, the better. The earlier they take challenging academic courses, the easier the transition will be to college study.
Parents, talk to your middle and high school students about their career plans. Encourage them to research what the training requirements will be. If their class schedule doesn’t include math and English every semester, make a pitch for those core courses. Work with teachers and school counselors to set your students up for success.
One additional incentive for college readiness is the cost of not being ready. Students (or their parents) have to pay for remedial classes in college and those classes don’t count toward credit for graduation.