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Fewer NM grads need remediation in college

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

State officials announced Wednesday a steady decline since 2012 in the number of college-bound students taking remedial courses in college, a sign that they say points to an improving educational system.

In 2012, half of all New Mexico high school students entering a state higher education institution enrolled in remedial – below college level – courses, according to data from the state Public Education Department. At the end of 2017, 33 percent of students took those courses, according to PED Secretary Designate Christopher Ruszkowski.

He made the announcement Wednesday morning at northeast Albuquerque’s Public Academy for Performing Arts, a high-performing charter school.

“In the K-12 and Higher Ed space, that is a significant indicator, perhaps the most significant indicator of the progress that a system can make,” Ruszkowski said in an interview with Journal reporters and editors after the announcement Wednesday.

The data tracks with an increase in standardized test (PARCC) proficiency rates, at least since 2015, based on PED data.

Ruszkowski described the decrease in remediation rates as a “culmination” of PARCC implementation and rising proficiency rates, increased teaching standards, New Mexico’s Common Core standards and other factors.

“We at the PED are saying look, this is what happens when we raise the bar,” Ruszkowski said

The remediation data does come with some caveats, though, said Secretary of Higher Education Barbara Damron, who joined Ruszkowski at the Journal meeting.

It counts only students who attended in-state institutions.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and state officials announced at the Public Academy of Performing Arts that the percentage of New Mexico students needing college remediation courses has declined steadily since 2012. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Also, there are inconsistencies in how higher education institutions code, report and name their remedial courses, which Damron said the department is working to standardize across each of the 31 schools under its purview.

And some colleges have not consistently offered remedial courses since 2012, Damron said.

There’s also the matter of ongoing declining enrollment across the state in colleges, due in part to the recovering economy.

High school graduates who choose to work instead of going to school would likely be those who would need remedial courses, Damron said.

But Ruszkowski reiterated that the data correlates with PARCC proficiency levels and demonstrates the test’s superiority over the old one, the Standards-Based Assessment (SBA).

“When you look at students who were proficient on the SBA and compare them to students who are proficient on the PARCC, students who are proficient on the PARCC are much less likely to need remediation than students that were proficient on the SBA.” Ruszkowski added that remediation rates will begin to be factored into PED school grades, starting next year.

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