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Diverse Issues in Higher Ed: Colleges Find Success With New Approaches to Developmental Education

10/22/2014 12:00 AM

​Every year, thousands of adults, some high school graduates, apply to a community college. But first they have to take tests that assess their English and math skills. Nationwide, 60 percent fail at least one of the tests, according to the Community College Research Center.

Traditionally, those applicants have been required to take — and pay for — remedial or development courses to shore up their basic skills before they are allowed into college-level classes. Many never make it that far.

With the recent national focus on increasing how many students complete academic programs at all levels of higher education, community colleges have been rethinking remedial education and trying new approaches.

One approach, called co-enrollment or co-requisite, scraps tradition by allowing students to enroll in a developmental math or English course at the same time they take a first-year college course in that subject. While they are catching up, those students build college credit.

Since 2011, the City Colleges of Chicago has experimented with offering co-requisite courses, which, Chancellor Cheryl L. Hyman says, “teaches the skills students need when they need to use them, rather than preparing for a college-level course in one semester and waiting until the next semester to use the skills.”

Hyman says 90 percent of new students at Chicago’s seven community colleges who plan to pursue college credits need at least one remedial course.

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