Of Delaware public high school graduates entering an in-state
college or university, 42 percent will begin their post-secondary education
behind their peers, according to the state’s 2016 College
Success Report released today.
Students who do not score well on college placement tests may be forced to take
and pass non-credit, remedial courses before entering the college-level courses
required for their degrees. These courses often cost the same as credit-bearing
classes but don’t count toward a student’s degree.
In Delaware – as is the case across the country – many students are graduating
high school unprepared for the level of rigor necessary in a college course.
Acceptance to college does not guarantee readiness for college. The Delaware
Department of Education report released today – which includes school- and
district-level data – outlines recommendations for schools, districts, and the
state to better prepare all students for college success.
“We already know that there is a strong correlation between the classes that
students are prepared to take, the supports available to different students to
succeed in those classes and student outcomes after graduation,” Secretary of
Education Steve Godowsky said.
“We need to ensure that students are prepared to
succeed in college before they enter the 12th grade. Some districts and schools
are already seeing progress. We need to continue this good work and seek
additional ways to better support our students.”
Early signs of progress
Over the last few years, districts have increased access to college-level
courses such as dual-enrollment and Advanced Placement classes. In addition,
the state began a pilot course in the 2014-15 school year called Foundations of
College Math to serve as a bridge course for students likely to require
remediation in college.
These efforts are showing signs of early progress and the state has seen an
overall reduction in remediation rates since 2012, the report found. Nine
Delaware schools and districts have also started to reduce student remediation
rates through changes to their curriculum and targeted student supports.
During her senior year at Woodbridge High School, Katelyn Harding,
18, took Foundations of College Math.
Now a freshman at Wesley College in Dover, Harding says her first-semester math
course was a “breeze” because of the strong math groundwork she received at
“With the teacher I had and just the atmosphere of the class, it made
everything I had already learned come to life,” Harding said.
Foundations of College Math provided Harding with the introduction to algebra
equations and quadratic functions that she needed to ace her Wesley class.
“In my first semester I was learning how to find vertexes and things I could
not even imagine,” Harding said. ““I liked that the course in high school was
mainly just basics because without them, I would probably not be doing so well
This year’s College Success Report makes specific recommendations for all
Delaware schools and districts to follow as they work to improve student
preparedness for college and continue the successes they have already
Woodbridge High School in the Woodbridge School District is among a handful of
districts receiving recognition from the state this year for its reduction in
student remediation rates.
“We are excited by the fact that a higher percentage of our
students are entering Delaware colleges without the need to take remedial
courses. This can be attributed to the hard work of our staff and the
continued belief that our students are capable of achieving at higher levels,”
Superintendent Heath Chasanov said. “Although, we certainly aren’t satisfied
with our current percentages, we believe that this reduction in remedial rates
will be a trend and not simply a one-time occurrence.”
POLYTECH Principal Jason Peel credited the dedication of his school’s math
teachers, who have “embraced Common Core and the need for more rigorous math
The school stopped offering pure remedial math in ninth grade and instead
enrolled the students in Algebra I with an extra period of supports. Year-long
geometry and Algebra II courses were created for struggling students with extra
support classes (double periods). Enrichment period supports also were
instituted during the day for struggling math students, Peel said.
Special education supports in math were aligned so that co-teachers work
together and have the same planning period on a more consistent basis. And
POLYTECH quadrupled its AP Calculus enrollment and added an AP Statistics
Other districts recognized for reducing remediation rates between 2012 and 2014
include: Colonial, Delmar, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, Red Clay
Consolidated, Smyrna and Sussex Tech.
Two different college
After a concentrated review of student remediation data from 2012 through 2014,
Delaware’s 2016 College Success Report highlights that 42 percent of all public
and charter school graduates enrolling in a Delaware college are unprepared to
successfully complete a college-level course. These students require
remediation classes before their first-year college courses.
Remediation classes yield zero credits and are often offered at a significant
cost to students. Nationally, less than 50 percent of students enrolled in
remedial courses actually finish them. Furthermore, 3 in every 10 students who
require remediation in college never graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
Students taking remedial courses must take additional courses that their peers
aren’t required to take. They can’t successfully enroll in their college
courses until they have completed the remedial courses. For some students this
can set them a full semester or more behind. For students depending on
financial aid to cover the costs of college, this can increase their overall
debt as many scholarships will not cover these courses.
Several states across the country are starting to examine the remediation issue
as more students are dropping out of college, taking longer to complete their
degrees or graduating with significant debt.
Remediation numbers are also significantly higher for students of color,
students with special needs, English language learners (ELLs), and students
from low-income families.
For students, the path to remediation begins early. Each year more
students make the decision to enroll in college. A college acceptance letter
marks a significant milestone in a student’s educational journey and the path
to the career of their dreams; however, the decisions and goals achieved prior
to the college acceptance letter determine a student’s first year college
As students and parents work with their schools to select classes
each year, they may not realize that not all classes will equally prepare
students for success in college. The difference between an Advanced Placement course
or a college prep course may ultimately mean a student graduates less prepared
for college-level English, for example.
Similarly, students taking less rigorous courses in math will find themselves
more likely to be placed in remedial courses. This means that a student placed
in Algebra II over calculus is also at a disadvantage and more likely to need
college remediation than if the student had been given the opportunity to
enroll in more-difficult classes.
“We’re not just suggesting that schools place students in the more rigorous
courses, such as calculus or Advanced Placement,” Shana Payne, director of the
department’s Higher Education Office, said. “Our systems must be designed to
prepare students to succeed in these courses. The data show that the more
advanced courses a student takes before graduating high school, the less likely
the student is to need remediation in
The department is calling on educators to use the data from the
2016 College Success Report alongside other measurements, such as the 10th
grade PSAT and the 11th grade SAT, to provide targeted interventions to
students as soon as they are identified as not yet meeting the
Using this data, schools have the opportunity to identify when students are
falling behind and provide the supports and access to more challenging courses
so they can be ready for those first-year college courses.
Additionally, evaluating curriculum and instructional practices in all classes
can help to reduce and eliminate these knowledge gaps students are
demonstrating before students reach the 12th grade.
“The shift from 12th grade to college should be as simple as the shift from
eighth grade to ninth grade or kindergarten to first grade,” said Michael
Watson, the department’s chief academic officer. “Every student with a college
acceptance letter and a Delaware high school diploma should be prepared to
succeed in the college he or she chooses to attend."