While the true extent of it is as yet unclear, the current economic downturn increases the urgency to invest in post-secondary education and training opportunities. For many Canadians, both young and older, access to these opportunities is limited because of negative or unsuccessful experiences with formal education earlier in their lives. As I have maintained for some time, one of the ways that post-secondary institutions can help to widen access and improve student outcomes is by taking on greater responsibility for academic remediation.
In this recent paper from the Community College Research Center, Thomas Bailey of Columbia University reviews evidence on the effectiveness of developmental education and suggests a broad reform agenda for helping students with weak academic skills. From the abstract:
In recent years, a dramatic expansion in experimentation with new approaches to strengthen student skills has taken place. There is now a growing commitment to better evaluation and quantitative analysis of student progression in community colleges that promises a more systematic and informed process of program and policy development. I suggest a broad developmental education reform agenda based on a comprehensive approach to assessment, more rigorous research that explicitly tracks students with weak academic skills through their early experiences at community colleges, a blurring of the distinction between developmental and “college-level” students that could improve pedagogy for both groups of students, and strategies to streamline developmental programs and accelerate students’ progress toward engagement in college-level work.
Reference: Bailey, T. (2008). Challenge and opportunity: Rethinking the role and function of developmental education in community college. New York: Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University.