How to Fix Remediation at Scale

Policy Paper
March 29, 2016

Nationwide, the majority of community college students are required to take at least one remedial course. Unfortunately, less than one quarter of those same students not only fail to finish a degree, but never took the required college-level class for which they sought remediation.

In the New America report, “How to Fix Remediation at Scale,” Iris Palmer, Senior Policy Analyst with New America’s Education Policy Program, reviews how leaders at community colleges in Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Tennessee and West Virginia successfully revamped their remediation systems. 

One of the key factors in the extensive redesign in each state was the introduction of co-requisite remediation. With this type of remediation, students receive learning support while taking college-level courses. As a result, students got the extra help they needed, while speeding up the progression of their degree. This is different from the traditional model of students being required to take remedial classes before their college-level courses.  

“States and systems play a key role in fixing remediation. Highlighting their actions provides a roadmap for others who want to undertake these reforms,” said Palmer.

The states used these tools to scale the reform:

  • Data analysis to communicate and identify problems they experienced with the current remedial system, while testing new interventions including co-requisite reform.
  • Task forces to lead both design and implementation work. Each state engaged key audiences to ensure that the reform was successfully implemented on a ground level.
  • Realistic expectations for implementation, including creating separate tracks for math and English remediation to give schools enough time to deal with common challenges.
  • Leadership, official policies and funding to put the new form of remediation into effect across the higher education system.

The community colleges found that this change made a big difference. Students who placed into remediation were taking college-level classes earlier and passing those courses at the same rate as their peers. The promise of co-requisite remediation is catching on—thirteen additional states have committed to implementing this model through Complete College America’s Scaling Co-requisite Initiative.

The full report is available here.