Issues in Higher Education: Remediation and the Achievement Gap

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Remediation efforts in higher education are not working to close the achievement gap. The reasons are diverse and complex.

Among the explanations are cultural and socioeconomic issues, as well as the failure of curriculum design and delivery at the elementary and secondary levels in the United States. Current day curriculum is still based on 20th century methodologies. In addition, there are still persistent gaps in the higher education of underrepresented groups.

There is no commonality of college and career readiness expectations among the states. Only recently have states started to adopt expectations and common core state standards. Few states have established graduation requirements to meet a standard of performance expected of college-level students that include curriculum (i.e., minimum of Algebra II, four years of English).

States must align expectations at the policy level, as well as use student-driven data to shape curriculum to prepare students for a post-high school education. Just like higher education, elementary and secondary institutions must be able to demonstrate their performance and accountability by showing (1) the percentage of high school graduates who earn a post-secondary diploma, (2) the proportion of students who obtain a readiness score on a high school assessment, (3) the number of students who earn college credit while still in high school and (4) the amount of students who require remediation upon entering college. Currently, only Texas uses all four measures of accountability.

In addition to creating education standards, issues of unequal access to education must be addressed. Among underrepresented groups, culture and money plays a huge factor. Lack of access and knowledge, low familial expectations related to education, language barriers and financial issues impact the achievement gap. Interestingly, Asian-Americans have the highest enrollment at post-secondary institutions (61-63 percent), as well as the highest completion rates (91 percent) among all groups.

There are no easy fixes. While solutions may seem simple, they are difficult to implement because of the size and demographics of our country. We must look at how we deliver education at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels. We should also create and implement culturally inclusive pedagogies, as well as recruit faculty of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. All solutions should be delivered as early in the educational pipeline as possible and repeated throughout a student’s education to ensure that students (and their families) are college and career ready.

Constance St. Germain, Esq., is vice president and dean of the School of Public Service & Health for American Public University System (APUS). She is pursuing her Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in higher education and organizational change at Benedictine University.

 

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