College remediation rates rise

Colorado’s college remediation rates rose in 2010-11, but retention rates increased for students enrolled in remedial classes, according to a report released today by Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia.

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia
Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia

The report attributed part of the increase to more students, saying, “These rates appear to be related to overall growth in college enrollment.” Higher education enrollment grew 5.6 percent from 2009-10 to 2010-11, some 14,000 students.

While rates were up over the prior year, remediation rates – overall and broken out by type of institution – have remained much the same over the last six years.

Here are some of the key findings:

• The percentage of first-time high school graduates placed into at least one remedial course was 31.8 percent, up from 28.6 percent in 2009-10. The largest number of students needed remediation in math.

• The remediation rate for community colleges was 58.2 percent and 20.5 percent at four-year schools. (Students are counted as needing remediation of they require a basic skills class in one subject – math, reading or writing.)

• Some 57 percent of adult students (those over age 20) required remediation in at least one subject.

• Only 57.7 percent of students who needed remediation continued for a second year in college, compared to 75.2 percent of all recent high school graduates. The retention rate for remedial students has increased from 51.9 percent in 2005-06.

• White, non-Hispanic students have the lowest remediation rates while black students had the highest. Women had a slightly higher remediation rate than did men.

• Remedial education costs the state $22 million a year and costs students $24 million.

Garcia, meeting with reporters at the Capitol, said, “It’s not a surprise we see remediation rates increasing,” given the changing demographics of K-12 students and an emphasis on getting more students into higher education.

Given those factors, “The need for remediation is probably going to remain constant at best if not increase,” the lieutenant governor said.

He was careful not to put the blame on high schools, saying, “This is not intended to say to the K-12 system ‘You guys are failing.’”

Colleges are increasingly focused on retaining students, and Garcia called the increase in retention rates “encouraging.”

Remediation chart
This DHE chart shows percentages of students needing remediation by subject and type of college. (Click to enlarge)

Garcia said community colleges are developing new approaches to remediation with a recent $1 million grant from Complete College America (see story).

He also touted House Bill 12-1155 as a way to help attack the remediation problem. Students who need remediation, even those admitted to four-year schools, have to take remedial classes through community colleges.

The bill would allow four-year schools to offer some remedial work to their students, provide a way to pay for those classes and give students more flexible ways of getting help, rather than having to take full classes to meet remedial requirements.

Several other bills that attempt to deal with remediation are pending. One of those, Senate Bill 12-047, would require high schools to give the Accuplacer test to every student. The hope is that would give schools data they need to help struggling students before they graduate and thus reduce remediation once students get to college.

Garcia said he likes that concept. But the administration hasn’t taken a position on the bill. He noted the state’s GEAR UP program provides similar services for low-income students.

The Department of Higher Education has gathered remediation data since 2001. Garcia also is executive director of the department. Reducing remediation rates and increasing retention numbers are policy priorities for the Hickenlooper administration.

Inside the report

Among community colleges, the Community College of Denver has the highest remediation rate at 73.3 percent. Morgan Community College had the lowest at 48.8 percent. Some individual community colleges showed declines in their rates.

For four-year institutions, Adams State College had the highest rates at 56.8 percent, but that’s down from 67 percent three years ago. The University of Colorado Boulder rate was a miniscule .6 percent, followed by the Colorado School of Mines at 1.4 percent.

The document also breaks out remediation percentages for graduates of individual high schools, including private schools, who enroll in Colorado colleges. The lowest rate as 1.3 percent at D’Evelyn High School in Jefferson County. Denver’s West High School had the highest remediation rate at 89 percent. (For privacy reasons, data is not broken out for high schools that send fewer than 25 students to Colorado colleges. Data from those schools is included in statewide totals.)

Education News Colorado analyzed the reported remediation numbers for individual high schools in the state’s 10 largest districts to come up with district figures.

Douglas County showed the lowest percentage of graduates needing remediation, 21.5 percent, up slightly from 2009-10. The Boulder Valley district’s percentage was 21.8 percent, also up from last year.

The Aurora schools had the highest percentage of graduates needing remediation, 59.8. That was up from last year. The Denver Public Schools had 58.9 percent of graduates needing remediation, down very slightly from the prior year.

Here are figures for the state’s other largest districts:

  • Adams 12-Five Star: 39.1 percent, up from 2009-10
  • Cherry Creek: 28.5 percent, down
  • Colorado Springs 11: 34.5 percent, up
  • Jefferson County: 28.6 percent, up
  • Poudre: 22.9 percent, down
  • St. Vrain: 31.2 percent, no change

For this first time, this year’s remediation report includes data from private schools. For the 11 such schools for which numbers were individually reported, the overall remediation rate was 23.8 percent.

Read the remediation report here.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”