A Curricular Conundrum

The co-requisite curricular model in community colleges has been gaining greater momentum thanks to positive reports out of recent pilot projects in flagship states such as Texas and California. The success reinforces the insolvency of traditional remediation, with several college systems nationwide having previously reformed their developmental education prior to the report, whose ink has had barely enough time to set before the document’s most ardent supporters have demanded its passage into policy.

But despite some genuinely significant improvements in remedial students’ learning, such sweeping reform ought to wait. (The exclusion of state funding for this curricular model represents additional difficulty.)

Data from existing studies center predominantly on students’ success in mathematics, leaving conspicuously absent sufficient analysis of writing and reading outcomes in a co-requisite curriculum. (Descriptions of how writing and reading instruction make for a natural pairing do not qualify.) Data beyond this should be approached cautiously. Accomplishing functional literacy after a lifetime of poor nurturing and inadequate instruction has routinely proven difficult. And there lacks a convincing rationale as to how reading and writing curricula fit soundly into this model.

Currently, neither can.

If remediation were a simple matter of review, courses could be fast-tracked to be completed within weeks (presently available), offer customized instruction based on student performance (also presently available), and provide instant feedback to provide maximum efficiency (also presently available). Remedial education would cease being an onerous issue, assuming students enrolled in all studies accurately represent those common to college remediation.

But they do not. Most remedial students exhibit deficiencies far more pronounced than those enrolled in study programs; actual classrooms represent not a tight range of borderline cases but an array of misplaced intellectuals and borderline illiterates that often share a similar disdain for their required enrollment.

Enrollments, however, appear to be receding and attrition rates improving, particularly for those in pathways-based curricula, but the number of incoming college students needing remediation, including those only months removed from high school graduation, remain high. And many cannot avoid succumbing to the dreadfully low rates of degree advancement for those requiring remediation, despite promising additional reforms.

Artificial intelligence, such as that found in interactive software found in remedial curricula, provides promise but often students in remediation have historically lacked the access to, familiarity with, and discipline to navigate such resources. Many students demand human interaction. A co-requisite education, if suitably outfitted with a truly interdisciplinary curriculum, might provide this.

But, currently, it does not and cannot.

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Contrarian to the Common

Former college educator with 15 years’ experience split between public community college and public four-year state college. My commentaries address matters germane to higher education, sometimes beyond.

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