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.”