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Annual College Success Report: Too many still need remediation

Of Delaware public high school graduates entering an in-state college or university, 41 percent will begin their post-secondary education behind their peers, according to the state’s 2017 College Success Report released today.  
The report shows that the remediation rate for Delaware’s Class of 2015 remained flat from last year, despite more students attending college. College enrollment for the Class of 2015 increased three percentage points to 61 percent.
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.  
“While some districts and schools are seeing progress, we need all students to be prepared to succeed in college when they leave high school,” said Shana Payne, director of the Delaware Office of Higher Education. “This report is part of a larger conversation focused on what stands in the way of students entering college ready for credit-bearing courses.” 
Over the last few years, districts have increased access to college-level courses such as dual-enrollment and Advanced Placement classes. Due to efforts to identify students who are not in honors or AP courses and invite them to enroll, Milford School District saw a 45 percent increase in AP test takers during the 2015-2016 school year.  The number of Milford High School students who received a three (3+) or higher on the AP tests also increased by 38 percent.  
“We had to adapt how we identify students for AP and honors classes,” said Shawn Snyder, principal at Milford High School. “Students are selected for higher-level coursework based on a combination of teacher recommendations, student and parent interest, and data, including PSAT, SAT, Smarter scores and more.” 
Milford also now focuses on providing additional supports to students to ensure they successfully transition to these courses and are able to master the course content. By providing after-school tutoring, summer check-in days, Sunday sessions and Schoology and Remind supports, Milford has also increased the number of students scoring a three or higher on AP exams by 38 percent last year.
“Students in Milford benefit from a process where potential cannot hide,” said Milford Director of Secondary Education Jason Peel. “The staff in Milford have a culture where they believe that students should be given multiple access points to higher-level coursework. They work to ensure that students are not only identified, but recruited to enter the courses and then give them the supports to be successful.”
Colonial School District has also focused heavily on identifying and supporting students to prepare them for college-bearing courses. Through program changes the district is seeing steady increases in AP and honors enrollment. Last year, Colonial School District experienced a 28 percent jump in the number of students earning a three or higher on their AP exams. 
“Delaware’s districts and charters are changing their systems to get more students ready for college-level classes,” Secretary of Education Susan Bunting. “Through strategies focused on improving access to college-bearing credits and providing targeted supports for all students, we can reduce remediation rates in Delaware.”
Students in Colonial now learn about higher-level coursework beginning in eighth grade. The district has also put a lot of effort into enhancing their parent and community outreach as well as providing teachers with targeted professional learning opportunities to continue to ensure student success. Additionally, Colonial’s increased academic supports for students in AP and honors classes include spring break reviews and student-centered events like Pancakes and Physics and dinner with Napoleon. 
“Our community supports the efforts of our students and has sponsored a variety of events that showcase the real-world relevance of the material they’ve learned,” said Colonial Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction Nicholas Baker. “AP Studio Art students proudly display their work at local businesses and AP United States History students meet with tour guides through our local historical society to learn about their local culture and create promotional materials for future visitors.” 
Colonial has also expanded its use of AP Insight, which is a diagnostic tool that allows AP teachers to formatively assess students. In partnership with College Board, AP Insight supports teachers in AP biology, chemistry, calculus, world history and U.S. history with online and face-to-face professional learning that includes instructional strategies to meet student’s needs.   
“To accomplish our mission, it takes the collaborative efforts of district and building administration, teachers, support staff, students, and parents to invest in the success of our students,” Baker said. “The AP experience is not merely about learning content or practicing concepts; it is about embarking on a lifelong journey of learning.”
The efforts of districts and charters are showing signs of early progress and the state has seen an overall reduction in remediation rates since 2012, the report found. Still, remediation rates in Delaware have been slow to decrease. 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 seen.   
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.   
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.   
Remediation numbers are also significantly higher for students of color, students with special needs, English learners (ELs), and students from low-income families. 
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.   
Alison May
(302) 735-4006