Needing Remediation

If you think that it seems like your students now need more help than students when you first started teaching, you are right.

Community College Spotlight has an article on the topic, “More Students Need Remediation.”

For whatever reason, we are getting more and more under-prepared students,” he told Community College Week. “It’s not going away. In fact, it’s worse than it was 40 years ago.”

Sixty percent of first-year students at community colleges test into at least one remedial class. Most never earn a degree.


The article does not discuss probable reasons. However, I can think of some.

1. Reading is down. People watch television, play video games, and don’t read. That means they come to school with a much lower vocabulary, missing both words and cultural understanding.

2. More people are going to college. That means people whose family members didn’t go to college are going. They don’t have home preparation and many of them are in poorly prepared schools. Also, sometimes their families are not supportive. The culture of poverty values people and if those people are educated, they leave. Bad thing for the poor who remain behind.

Can you think of any other reasons?


The reason I decided to get my PhD in rhetoric and composition was so that I could have credibility when I said that developmental writing students belonged in college. Many of my colleagues thought that if a student needed remediation, they did not belong in college.

Obviously I disagree with that.

I think that students who need remediation may belong in college.

1. A student may be strong in one area, but weak in another. If a student is a whiz at math, should we punish her/him for not being a whiz in English as well? No, I don’t think so.

2. A student may be a late bloomer. People do not learn things at the same time. Some people need more time than others. Should we exclude students who are not on our time schedule? Again, no.

3. Sometimes students goofed off earlier and did not learn what they could have learned, but are now motivated to learn the information. Who would decide to take a remedial course on their own? Almost no one. Yet we have students who attend our classes (probably hundreds of thousands of students across the US each semester) because they are willing to pay and take the time to learn what they need to know before they can go forward. I am thrilled with anyone who wants to learn.

There are probably other reasons a student might need remediation and still be in college. These are the three I see most often, though not in the order of likelihood.

I don’t believe all students should go to college, though. If a student has no desire to go to college, the student should not go. If the student has gifts in other areas and can develop and exercise those abilities without attending college, I don’t think the student needs to go to college. College is an exercise in the development of the mind, so even if a student doesn’t want to practice what they study, I think college can be beneficial. Despite that, I don’t think everyone needs to go.

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