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Large numbers of students at Maryland colleges and universities need remediation

Malala Yousafzai, an education and women's rights activist (R), meets with United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on August 18, 2014 in New York City.
Malala Yousafzai, an education and women's rights activist (R), meets with United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on August 18, 2014 in New York City.
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The latest mantra in public education is college and career readiness. A reasonable indicator of the success in this regard can be found in the remediation rates of high school graduates enrolled at Maryland public institutions. The 2014 Data Book released by the Maryland Higher Education Commission makes this data available to the public. It is, to say the least, eye opening.

According to the book, during the 2010-2011 year, Bowie State University topped the list with 87.9% of the 596 students enrolled needing remediation; 70.4% of the 642 students attending the University of Maryland (UM), Eastern Shore campus also needed remediation, while just 3.1% of the 3,017 students enrolled at the UM College Park campus needed remediation.

Community colleges fared no better with larger numbers needing remediation throughout all Maryland colleges. Montgomery College, for example, reported that 66.2% of its 3,618 students spread out among its various campuses needed remediation. At Prince George’s Community College 80.3% of the 1,428 students needed remediation, while 65.6% of the 1,104 students at Howard Community College needed remediation.

When looking at remediation rates by place of residence, 44.2% Montgomery County residents enrolled in Maryland public institutions needed remediation. To the north, the less wealthy Frederick County fared as well with 44.4% of their 1,623 students at Maryland institutions needing remediation. Howard County residents fared better with just 37.2% of 1,998 needing remediation.

The indicators seem to favor the conclusion that public school systems are not living up to their lofty ideal of college readiness. Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), the largest school system in Maryland, often labeled “high performing” by local newspapers, performed no better than Frederick County. This, despite the fact that MCPS claims to have discovered the Seven Keys to College Readiness (the MCPS webpage dedicated to the Seven Keys is no longer available. However, a report on the topic is available here).

Figures released by Montgomery College show that 26.2% of MCPS graduates enrolled at Montgomery College (MC); in 2012 it was down to 25.3%, dropping to 25.0% in 2013. In 2012, Walt Whitman High School sent the smallest number of students to MC—just 5.8%, with Winston Churchill following close behind with 8.1%. Other schools posted double digit numbers with John F. Kennedy High School leading the pack with 40.6%. The numbers increased in 2013 with Whitman sending 6.7%, Churchill sending 9.7%. In contrast, Kennedy dropped to 36.4%.

The stated vision of MCPS is to “inspire learning by providing the greatest public education to each and every student.” That vision, these figures seem to indicate, has not been effectively realized. Its mission that “every student will have the academic, creative problem solving, and social emotional skills to be successful in college and career,” clearly has not been accomplished.

MCPS needs to carefully take stock and evaluate why its students are in need of remediation. At minimum, a study that will stand up to the standards of peer review, for publication in a prestigious journal must be undertaken. Graduating students without the skills to receive a community college education without remediation is not acceptable for a school system of MCPS’s caliber.

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