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Postsecondary Remediation: How can we serve the needs of Underprepared Students?. Prof. Eric Bettinger stanford University, NBER. The Academic Gatekeeper: Remedial & Developmental Postsecondary Courses.

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postsecondary remediation how can we serve the needs of underprepared students

Postsecondary Remediation:How can we serve the needs of Underprepared Students?

Prof. Eric Bettinger

stanfordUniversity, NBER

the academic gatekeeper remedial developmental postsecondary courses
The Academic Gatekeeper:Remedial & Developmental Postsecondary Courses

 Lack of academic preparation is a significant barrier to college success – How should we address this problem?

 Nationally approx.40% of 1st year students are placed into college remediation (55-60% at CCs)

 The bulk of remediation is provided at non-selective publics colleges & universities, the point of entry for 80% of 4yr students and 99% of 2yr students

 The remediation placement exam taken once arriving on campus has become the key gatekeeper to a college-level education (often a surprise to students)

slide3

Debates about Remediation

  • CUNY phased remediation out of its 4yrs (1999)

“CUNY university system currently devotes far too much money and effort to teaching skills that students should have learned in high school.”

  • Proponents: opportunities for underprepared, many of whom did not have the chance to take in HS
  • Critics: Provides disincentives for high school students; Double dipping; Not the appropriate place
  • $1 Billion each year at publics (conservative estimate)
  • CSU: Fall 2001 “kicked out more than 2,200 students – nearly 7% of the freshman class – for failing to master basic English and math skills.”
the continuing debates about remediation
The Continuing Debates about Remediation…
  • CT and AZ do not allow remediation at publics
  • 8 states, incl. FL and IL, restrict remediation to 2yrs
  • VA: Some High Schools “guarantee” their diplomas – pay remedial expenses of their students
  • FL: Legislature elected to have students pay the full (unsubsidized) cost of their remediation (4 times the regular tuition)
  • Limits on funding of remediation: CA, TX, TN, & UT
difficulties in studying remediation
Difficulties in Studying Remediation
  • Comparisons are Different. How do you compare remedial to non-remedial students?
    • Historically, researchers focused on descriptive studies often without looking at college outcomes.
  • Policies are Often Inconsistent
    • True over time and true across schools
  • Heterogeneity in Remediation
    • Among students
    • Among class offerings
  • Lack of Data
why don t raw comparisons work
Why Don’t Raw Comparisons Work?
  • Dramatic Differences Between Remedial and Non-Remedial Students
  • Average ACT Scores Ohio 4-Year Colleges
    • Math: 23.3 for Non-Remedial , 17.4 for Remedial
    • English: 22.8 vs. 15.8
    • Reading: 23.8 vs. 16.9
  • Average HS GPA
    • Math: 3.3 vs. 2.5; English: 3.4 vs. 2.8
  • 5-year Dropout Rate
    • 31 Percent for Non-Remedial; 66 Percent for Math Remediation; 67 Percent for English Remediation
how inconsistent are the policies
How Inconsistent are the Policies?
  • Ohio Non-Selective Colleges
  • Ohio Non-Selective Colleges
how inconsistent are the policies1
How Inconsistent are the Policies?
  • Ohio Non-Selective Colleges
  • Ohio Non-Selective Colleges
heterogeneity among students
Heterogeneity Among Students
  • Recommended Curricula
  • Bottom Half:
    • practice and apply estimation and computation using whole numbers and decimals
    • choose the appropriate method of computation to solve multistep problems (e.g., calculator, mental, or pencil and paper)
    • calculate length of a line
  • Top Half:
    • solve routine arithmetic problems that involve rates, proportions, and percents
    • do multistep computations with rational numbers
    • calculate area and perimeter of triangles and rectangles; use geometric formulas
heterogeneity in delivery
Heterogeneity in Delivery
  • Almost half taught by Adjunct (31%) or Graduate Students (17%)
  • 63% taught by non-tenure track faculty
  • 42% taught by faculty with doctorates; 31% have masters; remaining 27% by other degrees (mostly bachelors)
lack of data
Lack of Data
  • National data has low sample sizes
  • System-wide data is important
    • 15 percent “transfer down”
    • 16 percent “transfer up”
    • All of these students would look like dropouts
state administrative data to the rescue
State Administrative Data to the Rescue
  • System-wide data from Florida, Texas, and Ohio have helped develop new strategies
  • Identify “bubble” students
    • Discontinuities
    • Similar students across campuses
slide15

Florida Administrative Dataset

  • Sample: All first-time, degree-seeking CC students who began in Fall 1997, 1998, 1999, or 2000 (over 100,000 records)
  • Term-by-term transcript data through Spr 2006
  • All test scores (CPT, SAT, ACT) plus other controls
  • Outcomes: passing Algebra/English 101, retention, certificate, associate degree, transfer to state 4-year college, credits earned (remedial and non-remedial)
slide16

Beth and Becky both take the College Placement Test (CPT)

Beth scores just above the cut-off score

Becky scores just below the cut-off score

Beth to college-level courses

Becky to remediation

Compare the outcomes of Beth & Becky

RD Design: The Intuition

Beth and Becky are observationally similar

Crossover:

Beth takes remediation anyway

No Show:

Becky never enrolls in remediation

slide17

Beth and Becky both take the College Placement Test (CPT)

Beth scores just above the cut-off score

Becky scores just below the cut-off score

Beth to college-level courses

Becky to remediation

Compare the outcomes of Beth & Becky

RD Design: The Intuition

Beth and Becky are observationally similar

Crossover:

Beth takes remediation anyway

No Show:

Becky never enrolls in remediation

Endogenous Sorting:

Beth retests to place out of remediation

slide18

Endogenous Sorting around the Cutoff

Expect to see larger number who barely exceed the cutoff than those who barely failed  discontinuity of the conditional density at the threshold

Density of Reading CPT for Institution E

slide19

Figure 4: Outcome by Reading CPT Score and Estimated Discontinuity

Passing First College-Level Course

(negative)

slide20

Figure 4: Outcome by Reading CPT Score and Estimated Discontinuity

Total Credits Earned

(positive)

the florida remediation study conclusions overall sample
The Florida Remediation StudyConclusions – Overall Sample
  • Being assigned to remediation appears to increase the total number of credits completed for students on the margin of passing out of the requirement…
  • But it does not increase the completion of college-level credits or eventual degree completion.

 Remediation might promote early persistence in college, but it does not necessarily help students on the margin of passing the cutoff to make long-term progress toward a degree

How do these results compare to other studies?

texas study
Texas Study
  • State with a single cutoffs and placement exam  RD methodology similar to Florida study
  • Sample: students who took all three placement exams (math, reading, and writing) and passed the writing section
  • Remediation appears to have little effect on a wide range of educational and labor market outcomes. The estimates are small and statistically insignificant but suggest that students are neither harmed nor greatly benefited by remediation
the ohio study
The Ohio Study
  • Nearly 66,000 first-time freshman in Fall 1998 (FT, traditional age, 4yr degree intent) for 6 years

 Compares observationally-similar students: one placed into remediation because his nearby college has a stringent policy while the other student does not because his school has a lax policy

  • Students in remediation had better subsequent outcomes – Reduced the likelihood of dropping out and increases the likelihood of completing a degree
  • Discouragement effect from certain Majors
reconciling the results
Reconciling the Results?
  • Single placement exam and cutoff versus autonomy
  • Different locations of the cutoff (where should it be?)
  • Different student samples (all versus traditional-age, degree seeking) and institutions (only CCs vs. 2yrs and 4yrs)

 Could the effects of remediation differ by type of student?

does remediation work for students with far less preparation
Does remediation work for students with far less preparation?
  • The FL, OH and TX studies focus on students on the margin of needing remediation -- they do not investigate the effects of remediation on students who are extremely under-prepared (i.e. don’t have an appropriate control group)
  • The Tennessee Case
  • Remediation at two-years and four-years
  • Multiple cutoffs and changes in placement policy over time

 Can investigate the effects of different types of remediation for students of different abilities

slide26

Policy Implications and Remaining Questions

  • Costs of remediation should be given careful consideration in light of the limited benefits.
  • Explore noncompliance and retesting practices and consider potential consequences
  • What is the best way to offer remediation? Characteristics of strong remedial programs?
  • What are the effects of limitations states impose on remedial course-taking (e.g., only at CCs, time limits)?
  • Early Placement Testing – a preventative measure?
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