Hun­dreds of CCPS se­niors must en­roll in re­me­dial course­work

New law ne­ces­si­tates ex­tra prep


jian­netta@ ce­cil­whig. com

— When county high school se­niors re­turn to class on Mon­day, about 40 per­cent of them will find them­selves en­rolled in re­me­dial classes be­cause they’re not con­sid­ered ready for col­lege.

Even though these stu­dents may have passed English and math classes their en­tire school ca­reer, a new state law that goes into ef­fect this school


year says these stu­dents aren’t col­lege- ready un­less they’ve hit a cer­tain score on one of var­i­ous stan­dard­ized tests.

The goal of the law is to de­crease the amount of Mary­land stu­dents who find them­selves test­ing into re­me­dial classes once they set foot on a col­lege cam­pus — forc­ing them to spend ex­tra time and money try­ing to catch up. A 2013 study by the Mary­land De­part­ment of Leg­isla­tive Ser­vices found that about 58 per­cent of com­mu­nity col­lege stu­dents and about one- third of stu­dents at four- year col­leges need re­me­dial classes in at least one sub­ject.

But de­spite the law’s good in­ten­tions, its time­line has caused headaches for school sys­tems across the state who say they haven’t had enough time to prop­erly im­ple­ment the re­quire­ments.

“If you want to try and do it the right way, you can’t al­ways hurry, hurry, hurry to try and meet a deadline,” said Jeff Law­son, CCPS as­so­ciate su­per­in­ten­dent for ed­u­ca­tion ser vices. “I do think it’s a well- in­ten­tioned good idea, but the time­line has re­ally forced us to be less de­lib­er­ate than we would like.”

Un­der the law, which was passed in 2013, school sys­tems must as­sess all high school ju­niors us­ing the SAT, ACT, Ac­cu­placer, Part­ner­ship for As­sess­ment of Readi­ness for Col­lege and Ca­reer ( PARCC) or AP tests. Ju­niors who don’t meet cer­tain cut­off scores must en­roll in re­me­dial “tran­si­tional” course­work dur­ing their se­nior year and then re­take the as­sess­ment.

Last year, all CCPS ju­niors were tested us­ing the Ac­cu­placer, a Col­lege Board test that is also used by many com­mu­nity col­leges. In the end, about 40 per­cent of the class of 2017, which con­sists of roughly 1,200 stu­dents weren’t able to test out of the re­me­dial course­work, said Anne Gell­rich, CCPS ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of high school ed­u­ca­tion.

But as CCPS pre­pares to im­ple­ment these classes for the first time, there are still many nu­ances of the law that the state has yet to ad­dress, Gell­rich noted. Mary­land has not yet said how the law will be ap­plied to fifth- year se­niors or to stu­dents who trans­fer in from an­other state.

In ad­di­tion, the state has yet to spec­ify how the law will be ap­plied to stu­dents on a ca­reer track, such as those at the Cecil County School of Tech­nol­ogy. These stu­dents were sup­posed to be able to ful­fill the readi­ness re­quire­ments by pass­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion ex­ams but even that re­mains up in the air, Gell­rich said.

“We haven’t been able to pin down which cer­ti­fica- tion tests ap­ply,” she said. “We’re hop­ing that some of our stu­dents will be helped out by that but we don’t of­fer all those cer­ti­fi­ca­tion they might list.”

For now, the plan is to have stu­dents com­plete the re­me­dial course­work on Black­board in con­junc­tion with their English class or as part of a study hall or re­visit pe­riod, de­pend­ing on the school. The course­work will largely con­sist of ad­dress­ing prob­lem ar­eas for English, such as read­ing in­for­ma­tional text and cer­tain writ­ing skills. Be­cause CCPS re­quires ev­ery stu­dent to take four years of math, stu­dents will not have to take re­me­dial math course­work since their se­nior year math class will count for this re­quire­ment, Gell­rich said.

Ideally, a stu­dent’s English teacher will also over­see their re­me­dial course­work but this wasn’t pos­si­ble in ev­ery school be­cause of teacher sched­ules, Gell­rich said. Re­gard­less, a teacher in each build­ing will be re­spon­si­ble for mon­i­tor­ing the progress, she added.

Be­cause the course­work is avail­able on­line, stu­dents can work at their own pace and even com­plete some of the work at home if they choose. Once they fin­ish the work, they will then re­take the Ac­cu­placer test to see if their score has im­proved, Gell­rich said.

While tak­ing the course and re­tak­ing the as­sess- ment is a grad­u­a­tion re­quire­ment, hit­ting the cut- off score on the as­sess­ment is not, Gell­rich noted.

Time will hope­fully bring some clar­ity to the new law and its im­ple­men­ta­tion, but for now CCPS is do­ing its best to meet the re­quire­ments.

“We’re just tr ying to get our arms around this from a sys­tem per­spec­tive,” Law­son said. “It’s a big un­der­tak­ing.”

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