Avoiding the Remediation Trap: How to Assist Foster Youth in Achieving College Success

According to a webinar series hosted by The John Burton Foundation (JBF), with a matriculation process that is made up of three steps including orientation, assessment, and developing an educational plan, only two to three out of 10 students are considered to be college ready. Currently, there are 113 community colleges in California and with each school having local control, the implementation of testing and assessment practices vary from campus to campus. In the subjects of English or Math, about 85 percent of all students are being placed in developmental, or remedial, courses.

Additionally, with every course below college level in which a student is placed, the likelihood of completing a college level course diminishes to a half or third.

Both national and state research have questioned the relationship between tests such as Compass and Accuplacer, which are currently being used for placement and the prediction for how well a student will perform in each course. In California, for example, it was found that cut-scores, the determining mark for making it to a transfer level course, are being set higher at community colleges than four-year institutions resulting in the under-placement of many students. More particularly, these methods have undermined the capability of foster youth, students of color, and first generation students, among others.

During the JBF webinar, Executive Vice President of Educational Results Partnership Ken Sory said, “Of those that attempted a math course in the community colleges, about 88 percent of [foster youth] are starting in a developmental course, or remediation, compared to about 78 percent of non-foster youth.”

Additionally, in the subject of English, 73 percent of foster youth were placed below transfer level compared to 62 percent of non-foster youth students. The most striking information, according to Sory, is that 12 percent of foster youth who attempted their first math class below transfer level went on to complete a transfer level course within two years, while 20 percent of non-foster youth did the same, showing the need for a more effective placement process at the onset of matriculation.

Many measures are being taken to combat remediation and encourage college success including the examination of data from high school transcripts. In doing so, colleges are looking to assess background and academic factors in efforts to indicate how a student might perform in college level courses, regardless of the placement test. As many as 65 California campuses are now incorporating this high school data and have significantly reduced the under-placement of students, saving on average about a year of time in the community college system. For a demographic such as foster youth, who already struggle to obtain a higher education, both the time and money saved can be pertinent to their ability to complete school.

For more information and useful resources for navigating higher education, please visit the website for John Burton Advocates for Youth here.

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About Sable Locci 12 Articles
Sable is a student currently residing in Los Angeles. She's an enthusiast of all things creative and performing arts and interns for The Chronicle of Social Change.