CUNY ends remedial courses as need for them rises
CUNY announced in a January press release that it completed its elimination of 'outdated traditional remedial math and English courses' and is replacing them with 'more equitable ‘corerequisite’ courses.'
CUNY reports that in 2016, 78% of its associates-degree students were placed in remedial classes.
The City University of New York (CUNY) system has announced that it is changing its remedial classes model due to racial equity concerns.
CUNY announced in a January press release that it completed its elimination of “outdated traditional remedial math and English courses” and is replacing them with “more equitable ‘corerequisite’ courses,” or for-credit classes that provide the foundational skills that students should have obtained in high school.
These new courses, according to CUNY, are more equitable than traditional remedial classes, which did not count towards a degree program, because they “disproportionately hurt underserved communities” and “lower income students of color.”
But the data suggests that a systemically poor education system makes remediation increasingly necessary, not racial disparity.
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CUNY reports that in 2016, 78% of its associates-degree students were placed in remedial classes. In Fall 2022, the New York Department of Education (DOEd) found that over 9,000 CUNY community college students needed remediation, as reported by the New York Post.
A contributing factor to these numbers may be COVID-19 related learning losses and the corresponding pressure to lower expectation education due to disruptions in K-12 education.
But, as Campus Reform Higher Education Fellow Nicholas Giordano observes, the quality of education overall has been in decline for several decades.
“Basic proficiency levels,” says Giordano, “on average are about 25% of the subject material when they graduate high school. Now what they don’t say is those numbers have been flat for about thirty years, yet we’ve been dropping standards at the same time.”
Adam Ellwanger, also a Campus Reform Higher Education Fellow, agrees with Giordano in that students’ failures in higher education stem from the inadequacies of K-12.
Drawing from his experience as an introductory writing professor, Ellwanger argues, “Teachers could put lower expectations on students, but that ensures that students with average and better-than-average skills learn nothing new. The most under-prepared students get a shot at getting a passing grade, but they also learn very little.”
NYC public schools have long been accused of depriving their students of a decent education by not requiring attendance and due to “no-fail policies.” Now, chronic absenteeism across NYC K-12 schools has skyrocketed to 40% on average, meaning that four in 10 students are missing at least 10% of the school year.
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Ray Domanico of the Manhattan Institute told the New York Post, “The kids who come out of high school unprepared end up in the community colleges. And those [CUNY] two-year colleges have awful graduation rates – like in the 20s. A lot of those kids don’t make it past that first year.”
Chancellor of the CUNY system, Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, contends that removing remedial classes and replacing them with similar level “corerequisites” will solve this systemic problem.
“Replacing the outdated remedial approach with a more effective, equitable and evidence-based system,” according to Rodríguez, “is an important advance in our ongoing mission to provide our students with educational opportunity and the support they need to succeed.”
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