New students who show up here at Florida State College at Jacksonville have to take placement tests in mathematics, English, and reading. About 70 percent end up in one or more remedial courses. For now, at least.
State lawmakers voted in May to make such courses, which some see as obstacles to progress, optional for most students. Starting next year, recent high-school graduates and active-duty military members in Florida will have the choice of whether to take the courses or even the tests meant to gauge students’ readiness for college-level work.
That prospect has sent a wave of anxiety across the state’s 28 community and state colleges, which all have open admissions. Their fear: that an influx of unprepared students could destabilize introductory courses and set those who will struggle up for failure.
The colleges have become ground zero in a national battle over remedial education, a field whose current models aren’t working, say even its most ardent supporters. Several organizations—including Complete College America and Jobs for the Future, both backed by groups including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation—have been pushing to reduce the number of students who end up in noncredit remedial courses. Based on the argument that remedial education, as currently delivered, is ineffective, the groups have persuaded lawmakers in Connecticut, Tennessee, and other states to pass laws channeling more students directly into credit-bearing courses. <Read more.>