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AN ANALYSIS OF AVAILABLE DATA ON REMEDIATION ACTIVITIES
  AT CONNECTICUT'S PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION

When the Board of Governors for Higher Education selected Remediation as one of its five primary concerns for 1998-1999, Department of Higher Education staff planned a three step process to implement the Board's initiative. Phase One was to review the activities and reports of other states. This was carried out in the spring of 1998 and reported to the Board in June. That report now is circulating among interested parties in the state. Phase Two was to review existing data regarding remediation that might be available with the expectation that an Interim Report would be made to the Board in November, 1998. Phase Three was to design and implement a new, more thorough study of remediation in Connecticut with an initial report to go to the Board in September, 1999, and with successive reports as appropriate for several years out into the future. This document is the scheduled Interim Report, using available data on remediation from the constituent units.

Participation

All four of the public constituent units of higher education, plus representatives of the state's independent colleges and universities, have been actively participating in the Remediation Task Force. The University of Connecticut, the Connecticut State Universities, and the Community-Technical Colleges all have provided relevant and useful data regarding remedial activities on their campuses. Some of these data already existed before the Board of Governors began its present initiative; some has be generated in response to that initiative. Furthermore, these data reflect the local focus of all remediation activities here in Connecticut. Each campus in each constituent unit conducts remedial or developmental programs according to the needs of its own students, the orientations of its own administration and faculty, and the resources it has available. As a consequence the data provided tend to be different from constituent unit to constituent unit and even from campus to campus. Still a picture of remediation in the public sector of Connecticut higher education is beginning to come clear.

Caution

The data used in this report are incomplete. They should not be interpreted or cited as if they accurately reflect the full condition of remedial activities at public institutions of higher education in Connecticut.

Information Collected

The Community-Technical Colleges

These data were collected by the Chancellor's Office of the Community-Technical Colleges in the Spring Semester, 1998. See Table One.

Two points are most evident from these data. First, because average enrollment per section was quite constant across this period (a low of 19.75 in 1993 and a high of 21.23 in 1992), the number of sections of remedial courses varied directly with the changes in total remedial enrollments. Second, total remedial enrollments in the Community-Technical Colleges peaked in 1995 (13,701 course enrollments, not unduplicated headcounts) and have declined in each of the past two years.

At the same time, a third key observation is worth making. The big jump between 1992 and 1993 in both the numbers of remedial sections and total remedial enrollments most likely was a consequence of the merger of the Community Colleges with the Technical Colleges which became operational in 1993. Since these data were collected from the present Community-Technical Colleges, in all likelihood for the period before 1993 they exclude the relevant information from the five Technical Colleges which existed before the merger.

While it is impossible to make a direct comparison between these remedial course enrollments and total overall Community-Technical College enrollments, we can approximate that relationship by making one (probably not 100% correct) assumption: that on average each remedial course counts as the equivalent of three credits of student enrollment. With this assumption we can calculate the equivalent remedial full time equivalent (FTE) enrollment and compare these numbers with the total FTE enrollments of the Community-Technical Colleges. See Table Two.

Thus, throughout the early 1990's remedial education constituted, on average, a little more than ten percent of enrollment per course activity of Connecticut's Community-Technical Colleges. Other states reporting comparable data through this time period (Texas, 1996-1997, 11.5% remedial credits; Washington, 1995-1996, 8% remedial credits; Wyoming, 1995-1996, 8.8% remedial credits; Rhode Island, 1996-1997, 6.9% remedial credits; and Illinois, FY96, 9.1% remedial credits) certainly do not represent a random sample of the nation as a whole. Yet, among these reporting states Connecticut Community-Technical Colleges certainly stand at the high end of the range. At present, it is not appropriate to speculate on why this might be the case. Furthermore, since well over fifty percent of the Community-Technical College students are over 25 years of age, these data suggest little, if anything, about the quality of Connecticut's public K-12 educational system.

The data presented above look at remediation from an institutional perspective. Several Community-Technical Colleges have supplied data which give some hint of how the question of remediation looks from the perspective of the individual student. Since not all CTCs were able to report and since the data itself is admittedly soft, the numbers will be reported without identifying the individual contributing institutions.

Seven of the twelve Community-Technical Colleges provided data regarding the placement test scores of their students. Throughout the period covered by these data individual Community-Technical Colleges have used both the New Jersey Basic Skills Placement Test and Accuplacer. See Table Three.

The reader's first impression from Table Three is likely to be that of chaos. There appears to be no enduring patterns from institution to institution, from year to year, or from substantive area to substantive area. Yet, across the table as a whole on average the numbers of students placing into remedial writing and reading courses tend to be lower than the numbers needing mathematics remediation. The range of language results run from just under 70% to around 10%; by contrast the math remedial placements run from about 90% to 20%. Averaging all of the comparable scores across the three years of data, 48.7% of tested students (not all of whom were necessarily freshman students) needed writing remediation; 37.3% needed reading remediation; and 55.7% needed remediation in mathematics. For comparison, during the same three year period approximately 70% of new freshman in the CUNY community colleges required writing remediation; about 45% needed remedial work in reading; and roughly 65% tested into remedial mathematics.

From a public policy perspective it is most important to recognize what these data do NOT tell us, rather than what they do tell us. First, and most important, since we have no age or educational background data, we have no idea what proportion of Connecticut's tested Community-Technical College students are entering directly out of high school. Additionally, we have no idea of where these students received their primary and secondary education, what their native language may be, or how recently they arrived in the United States.

Finally, there is one further body of data, which some of the Community-Technical Colleges have provided, that is useful to our overall understanding of the situation. That data identifies the number of students tested who actually enroll at the college. See Table Four.

If the numbers on Table Three present a jumbled, unclear picture, then Table Four is a model of clarity. Quite simply, upwards of one quarter to one third and even to one half of the students tested do not finally enroll at the college. Thus, 1) the proportions of skill deficient students identified in Table Three cannot be assumed to represent the skill levels of students who actually enroll in the Community-Technical Colleges and 2) the basic skills testing process and its outcome may be a factor in the student's decision to enroll or not to enroll. Thus, while the Community-Technical Colleges are open admissions institutions for students with a high school diploma or its equivalent, basic skills testing (and the results) may well serve as an enrollment hurdle for some students. Obviously, it also serves to identify those admitted students who will need basic skills assistance in order to succeed at this level of formal education.

In sum, the information which the Community-Technical Colleges have provided has been both useful and incomplete. We have a full picture of the extent of remedial offerings and their enrollment. We have an incomplete, but suggestive picture of basic

skills testing and its results. We have no information on the success or failure of remedial programs or on the progress of remedial students through their college careers.

The Connecticut State Universities

Remediation data from the four Connecticut State Universities were generated both by the CSU Central Office and by two of the four universities themselves during the summer and early fall of 1998. All four of the universities test the basic math and English language skills of all entering freshmen reporting SAT scores below certain institutionally prescribed limits. The four universities use a variety of placement tests including Accuplacer. See Tables Five and Six.

Clearly, remedial enrollments make up a tiny proportion of the total educational activity of the four Connecticut State Universities. The four CSU institutions averaged 1.9% remedial FTE in 1995 and 1996. This compares to < 1% in Rhode Island, to 1.4% in Illinois, and to between 1% and 2% in the State of Washington at comparable institutions.

In addition to the common data for the four universities provided by the Central Office, two of the four institutions were able to supply student tracking information which extends somewhat further our total picture of remediation in Connecticut public higher education.

Jerry Wilcox of the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment at Western Connecticut State University has provided student tracking data for that institution which allows us both to follow remedial students through their college careers and to compare those remedial students with non-remedial students in the same timeframe. This is good data which directly confronts the ultimate question of the effectiveness of remedial education programs.

In both 1995 and 1996, for example, WCSU offered 6 remedial English language and 12 remedial mathematics classes. In 1995, 466 students were enrolled in these remedial courses; 428 in 1996.

One of the first questions in evaluating the effectiveness of remedial education is to determine what proportion of the students enrolling in such classes successfully complete these classes. See Table Seven. The data from WCSU indicates that most, in some years virtually all, of the remedial students taking remedial English courses successfully complete those classes. While from year to year there is some variation in the success rates of freshmen versus non-freshmen and of full-time versus part-time students, overall well over eighty percent of the Western CSU students successfully completed their remedial English courses. In fact, remedial students appear to be more successful on average at completing their remedial English than are other non-remedial students in their first, regular college-level English course. By contrast, the success rates of WCSU students enrolled in remedial mathematics classes is not so good. See Table Eight. On average roughly 70% of the WCSU students who took remedial mathematics classes successfully completed those classes. In 1995 the National Center for Educational Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education published the following national pass rates for remedial courses at public four-year institutions: reading 82%, writing 81%, and mathematics 71%. Western's success rates appear to be comparable or even slightly above (in the language areas) these national averages.

Wilcox has provided even more interesting data from WCSU regarding the comparable retention, cumulative grade point average (GPA), probation status, and completion rates from remedial students versus non-remedial students. These data, in a real sense, are the ultimate evaluative statistics for remedial programs at collegiate institutions, at least from the perspective of the educational institution. We reproduce these data for full-time freshmen students only. See Table Nine.

Over seven successive cohorts of students at Western Connecticut State University students requiring remediation tended to remain enrolled at the institution about as long as non-remedial students. The cumulative grade point averages of remedial students tended to be a little lower than non-remedial students, but still for the most part were well within the C to C+ range. Remedial students were more likely to spend some time on academic probation. The six-year graduation rates for remedial students, when compared to non-remedial students, show no consistent evidence that retention of remedial students was generally worse than for non-remedial students. While comparable data from other states are unavailable, one national study found that remedial students had graduation rates about fifteen percent lower than non-remedial students. Western's data are not seriously out of line with that national pattern.

Walt Ziemba, Director of Institutional Research at Southern Connecticut State University, recently has explored a different aspect of remediation: when do students who need remedial skill development undertake such work? Ziemba's findings are that at SCSU the great bulk of the students enrolled in remedial classes over the period from the fall semester 1996 through the spring semester 1998 were in their first or second year of college. At the same time, students tended to confront their remedial problems in English earlier in their collegiate careers than their difficulties with mathematics. .See Table Ten.

The data provided by the CSU Central Office provide the core information regarding remedial courses offered and the enrollments in those courses. The student tracking data from Southern and, especially, Western provide a good insight into the effectiveness of remedial programs at those institutions and to the competitiveness of remedial students with regard to retention, general academic performance, and program completion.

The University of Connecticut

The University of Connecticut has provided data regarding 1) the extent and timing of remedial coursework in students' programs of study and 2) the graduation rates of remedial versus non-remedial students.

UCONN's data on remedial courses and enrollments for the Storrs campus compares only remedial course enrollments with the total number of courses taken by freshmen and new transfer students. These data, therefore, are not comparable to the course and enrollment data provided by the Community-Technical Colleges and the Connecticut State Universities. See Table Eleven.

Less than five percent of the courses taken by UCONN's entering students at the Storrs campus in their first two years at the university are remedial courses. Here it is important to remember that standards which place students into remedial classes versus regular collegiate-level courses differ from institution to institution. Thus, the reader must not presume that a remedial student at the University of Connecticut is at the same skill or academic performance level as a remedial student in the same subject at either the Community-Technical Colleges or the Connecticut State Universities.

The second body of data made available from the University of Connecticut Storrs campus compares the graduation rates of the remedial students in the 1992 Entering Freshmen Cohort versus the non-remedial students in the same cohort. See Table Twelve. From this one cohort year it would appear that remedial students tend to have a slightly lower six-year graduation rate when compared with non-remedial students and that students with skill deficiencies in both English and mathematics progress toward graduation at a significantly slower pace than either students who need no remedial work or students with just one area of skill deficiency.

Summary

  1. The data which we have been able to collect thus far is both very useful and very fragmentary. They provide hints at what is going on here in Connecticut, but provide no definitive answers.
  2. The data suggest that remedial FTEs at the Connecticut Community-Technical Colleges and at the Connecticut State Universities are not grossly out of line when compared with comparable institutions in other states.
  3. In Connecticut's public institutions of higher education, as in the nation, more entering college students need math remediation than remediation in language skills.
  4. Incomplete data from the Community-Technical Colleges suggest that the skill testing process itself may help admitted students to decide whether to enroll or not.
  5. Students, at least at one of the CSU institutions, with skill deficiencies appear to confront those deficiencies early in their collegiate careers. Students with language problems generally enroll in remedial English classes in their freshman year in college. Students with math deficiencies are more likely to put off remedial math.
  6. High proportions (probably at or above the national averages) of the remedial students in Connecticut's public colleges and universities successfully complete their remedial courses.
  7. At Connecticut's public institutions of higher education remedial students tend to stay in college about as long as non-remedial students.
  8. Remedial students enrolled at Connecticut public universities tend to complete their programs of study somewhat less frequently than do non-remedial students. However, significant numbers of remedial students do graduate.

Again, the available data used in this report are incomplete. They should not be interpreted or cited as if they accurately reflect the full condition in our state.


TABLE ONE
REMEDIAL SECTIONS AND 
TOTAL REMEDIAL ENROLLMENTS
AT THE COMMUNITY-TECHNICAL COLLEGES:
FALL 1991 THROUGH FALL 1997
  Sections Course Enrollments
1991 419 8,658
1992 420 8,915
1993 569 11,239
1994 524 10,989
1995 669 13,701
1996 558 11,443
1997 528 11,142

 

TABLE TWO
COMPARISON OF REMEDIAL FTE ENROLLMENT WITH TOTAL
FTE ENROLLMENT AT THE COMMUNITY-TECHNICAL COLLEGES:
FALL 1991 THROUGH FALL 1997
  Remedial FTE
Enrollment
Total FTE
Enrollment
Remedial FTE
as % of Total FTE
1991 1732 18,339 9.4%
1992 1783 19,406 9.2%
1993 2248 22,179 10.1%
1994 2198 21,718 10.1%
1995 2740 20,695 13.2%
1996 2289 19,745 11.6%
1997 2228 19,279 11.6%

 

TABLE THREE
PLACEMENT OF TESTED STUDENTS INTO REMEDIAL
COURSES AT SEVEN COMMUNITY-TECHNICAL COLLEGES:
FALL 1994 THROUGH FALL 1996
    Students
Tested
Remedial
Writing
Remedial
Reading
Remedial
Math
Institution A
1994   1285 834 365 757
  Percent   64.9% 28.4% 58.9%
1995   1163 601 201 840
  Percent   51.7% 17.3% 72.2%
1996   1234 526 813 1113
  Percent   42.6% 65.9% 90.2%
Institution B
1994   1861 1418 585
  Percent   76.1% 31.4%
1995   1672 1052 475
  Percent   62.9% 28.4%
1996   1615 791 331
  Percent   49.0% 20.5%
Institution C
1994   1350 673 911 957
  Percent   49.9% 67.5% 70.9%
1995   1518 926 824 1033
  Percent   61.0% 54.3% 68.1%
1996   1424 NA NA NA
Institution D
1994   382 68 73 NA
  Percent   17.8% 19.1%  
1995   340 110 108 NA
  Percent   32.4% 31.8%
1996   318 117 97 NA
  Percent   36.8% 30.5%
Institution E
1994   928 210 214 385
  Percent   22.6% 23.1% 41.5%
1995   1027 376 370 491
  Percent   36.6% 36.0% 47.8%
1996   909 115 119 531
  Percent   12.7% 13.1% 58.4%
Institution F
1994   1083 700 477 795
  Percent   64.6% 44.0% 73.4%
1995   974 636 597 655
  Percent   65.3% 61.3% 67.2%
1996   758 451 345 500
  Percent   59.5% 45.5% 66.0%
Institution G
1994   652 452 49 534
  Percent   69.3% 7.5% 81.9%
1995   720 240 50 323
  Percent   33.3% 6.9% 44.9%
1996   492 341 37 403
  Percent   69.3% 7.5% 81.9%

 

TABLE FOUR
PROPORTION OF STUDENTS TESTED WHO ACTUALLY
ENROLL AT THE COMMUNITY-TECHNICAL COLLEGE
    Percent of Students
Tested Who Enroll
Institution A
  Fall 1994 68.8%
  Fall 1995 64.6%
  Fall 1996 74.7%
Institution B
  Fall 1994 82.3%
  Fall 1995 82.7%
  Fall 1996 NA
Institution C
  Fall 1994 75.0%
  Fall 1995 72.1%
  Fall 1996 73.6%
Institution D
  Fall 1994 96.9%
  Fall 1995 80.0%
  Fall 1996 83.3%
Institution E
  Fall 1994 80.6%
  Fall 1995 76.2%
  Fall 1996 NA
Institution F
  Fall 1994 81.2%
  Fall 1995 77.8%
  Fall 1996 72.7%
Institution G
  Fall 1994 81.9%
  Fall 1995 44.9%
  Fall 1996 81.9%

 

TABLE FIVE
REMEDIAL SECTIONS AND TOTAL REMEDIAL ENROLLMENTS
AT THE CONNECTICUT STATE UNIVERSITIES:
FALL 1995 AND FALL 1996
  Sections Course Enrollments
1995 102 2088
1996 102 2080

 

TABLE SIX
COMPARISON OF REMEDIAL FTE ENROLLMENT WITH TOTAL
FTE ENROLLMENT AT THE CONNECTICUT STATE UNIVERSITIES:
FALL 1995 AND FALL 1996
  Remedial FTE
Enrollment
Total FTE
Enrollment
Remedial FTE as %
of Total FTE
1995 418 22,021 1.9%
1996 416 21,947 1.9%

 

TABLE SEVEN
STUDENTS AT WCSU ENROLLED IN REMEDIAL
ENGLISH CLASSES WHO SUCCESSFULLY
COMPLETED THOSE REMEDIAL CLASSES
Number Percent Successful
1994
Full-Time Freshmen 29 70.8%
Part-Time Freshmen 10 60.0%
Full-Time Non-Freshmen 30 92.0%
Part-Time Non-Freshmen 23 87.0%
1995
Full-Time Freshmen 96 94.4%
Part-Time Freshmen 40 86.5%
Full-Time Non-Freshmen 42 82.5%
Part-Time Non-Freshmen 38 86.8%
1996
Full-Time Freshmen 38 85.7%
Part-Time Freshmen 122 75.0%
Full-Time Non-Freshmen 26 80.0%
Part-Time Non-Freshmen 34 81.8%
1997
Full-Time Freshmen 34 96.8%
Part-Time Freshmen 79 72.7%
Full-Time Non-Freshmen 9 66.7%
Part-Time Non-Freshmen 4 100.0%

 

TABLE EIGHT
STUDENTS AT WCSU ENROLLED IN REMEDIAL
MATHEMATICS CLASSES WHO SUCCESSFULLY
COMPLETED THOSE REMEDIAL CLASSES
  Number Percent
Successful
1994
  Full-Time Freshmen 85 60.7%
  Part-Time Freshmen 44 69.2%
  Full-Time Non-Freshmen  78 72.6%
  Part-Time Non-Freshmen  83 77.8%
1995
  Full-Time Freshmen 240 71.1%
  Part-Time Freshmen 142 77.5%
  Full-Time Non-Freshmen  143 75.0%
  Part-Time Non-Freshmen  164 84.6%
1996
  Full-Time Freshmen 167 72.1%
  Part-Time Freshmen 202 69.4%
  Full-Time Non-Freshmen  130 60.9%
  Part-Time Non-Freshmen  170 75.7%
1997
  Full-Time Freshmen 88 66.7%
  Part-Time Freshmen 221 57.4%
  Full-Time Non-Freshmen  15 61.5%
  Part-Time Non-Freshmen  59 63.2%

 

TABLE NINE
REMEDIATION STATUS, STUDENT RETENTION, DEGREE
ATTAINMENT, AND RELATED MEASURES FOR REMEDIAL
AND NON-REMEDIAL FULL-TIME STUDENTS AT WCSU:
FALL 1990 THROUGH FALL 1996
  Number Mean
Semesters
Enrolled
Mean
Cumulative
GPA
Percent
Ever on
Probation
Percent
Retained
After 1 Yr
Percent
Completing
Degree at WCSU
1990 Cohort
Non-Remedial 349 6.6 2.60 10% 72% 41%
Math Only 62 7.0 2.56 16% 76% 45%
Math & English 14 5.1 1.92 21% 71% 29%
English Only 23 6.4 2.30 30% 78% 22%
1991 Cohort
Non-Remedial 322 6.6 2.60 10% 75% 43%
Math Only 35 6.6 2.59 20% 80% 40%
Math & English 4 7.0 2.51 0 100% 50%
English Only 17 3.8 1.98 18% 53% 6%
1992 Cohort
Non-Remedial 319 6.3 2.54 10% 73% 39%
Math Only 64 6.5 2.46 16% 69% 31%
Math & English 7 7.3 2.79 14% 86% 71%
English Only 22 5.6 1.99 14% 64% 14%
1993 Cohort
Non-Remedial 391 6.0 2.48 10% 71% 19%
Math Only 67 5.7 2.23 16% 69% 13%
Math & English 18 6.0 2.29 22% 67% 6%
English Only 56 6.5 2.36 23% 70% 9%
1994 Cohort
Non-Remedial 266 5.6 2.57 12% 71% 3%
Math Only 216 5.5 2.40 19% 74% 1%
Math & English 37 4.9 2.03 38% 57% 0
English Only 25 5.2 2.33 8% 76% 0
1995 Cohort
Non-Remedial 245 4.6 2.62 12% 74% 0
Math Only 131 4.4 2.30 16% 69% 0
Math & English 34 4.3 2.13 15% 68% 0
English Only 45 4.3 2.45 13% 64% 0
1996 Cohort
Non-Remedial 282 3.1 2.37 13% 65% 0
Math Only 126 3.0 2.31 11% 61% 0
Math & English 44 3.0 2.07 20% 59% 0
English Only 26 3.2 2.17 12% 65% 0

 

TABLE TEN
CLASS DISTRIBUTION OF STUDENTS ENROLLED IN REMEDIAL
CLASSES AT SOUTHERN CONNECTICUT STATE UNIVERSITY:
FALL 1996 THROUGH SPRING 1998
  Freshmen Sophomore Junior/Senior
English 098* 87.4% 10.2% 2.3%**
English 100 83.5% 12.7% 3.9%
English 101 55.3% 30.7% 14.0%
Math 095* 68.9% 19.5% 11.6%
Math 100 54.5% 26.3% 19.2%
* English 98 and Math 95 are non-credit courses.
** Rows add to 100%.

 

TABLE ELEVEN
REMEDIAL COURSES AS A PERCENT OF TOTAL COURSES
TAKEN BY NEW FRESHMEN AND NEW TRANSFER
STUDENTS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT:
FALL 1996 COHORT AND FALL 1997 COHORT
  Remedial
Courses
Total
Courses
Remedial Courses
as a % of Total
Courses
1996 Cohort
Freshmen in 1996-1997 701 20,713 3.4%
Sophomores in 1997-1998 34 18,229 0.2%
Transfer Students 1996-1998 70 10,197 0.7%
1997 Cohort
Freshmen in 1997-1998 853 21,010 4.1%
Transfer Students 1997-1998 48 5,177  0.9%

 

TABLE TWELVE
GRADUATION RATES OF REMEDIAL VERSUS NON-REMEDIAL
STUDENTS IN THE 1992 ENTERING FRESHMEN COHORT AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT
  Number Percent
Graduating
in 4 Yrs
Percent
Graduating
in 5 Yrs
Percent
Graduating
in 6 Yrs
No Remedial Courses 1784 40.5% 62.6% 66.1%
Remedial Math Only 171 36.3% 57.3% 59.1%
Remedial English Only 166 35.5% 57.8% 60.8%
Both Remedial Math & English 51 15.7% 54.9% 54.9%

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