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March 1, 2007 :: College Prep Classes Linked to Higher ACT Scores, Less Remediation

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Oklahoma students who take a college-preparatory curriculum during high school score higher on the ACT and are less likely to require remedial courses, according to two reports recently released by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

The reports also show remediation rates dropped last year for first-time freshmen at Oklahoma’s colleges and universities, but more than one-third of freshmen still require remedial courses.

According to the 2005-2006 Annual Student Remediation Report, of the first-time freshmen who did not take the “core curriculum” of college prep classes during high school, 47.6 percent enrolled in remedial courses. However, of the freshmen who took the core curriculum during high school, only 24 percent required remediation.

In Oklahoma the “core curriculum” is a track of 17 high school classes that provides competencies necessary for college and the workforce. The curriculum includes four units of English, three units of mathematics, three units of science and three units of history and citizenship skills. It also includes two cumulative units of foreign language or computer science, one unit of fine arts or speech, and an additional unit in any of the core subjects.

Remedial courses are non-credit courses that bridge academic deficiencies in math, science, reading and English. In Oklahoma, public colleges and universities require students who score below 19 on an ACT subject test to either enroll in a remedial course or undergo additional testing in that subject area.

The core college prep curriculum also affected results found in another report. A 2005-2006 High School Indicators Project report shows that students who took the core curriculum scored an average of 21.6 on the ACT in 2006. Those who didn’t take such preparatory classes scored an average of 19. The State Regents receive score data directly from ACT.

The High School Indicators Project was created in response to a 1989 state law that required the State Department of Education to provide multiple types of evaluations and notify individual schools, districts and the general public about the “effectiveness” of schools. The project tracks remediation, ACT scores, college-going rates and the first-year performance of college students.

Higher education officials say the reports verify that Oklahoma students need to take the core curriculum during high school and that the new law will help put more students on the right track.

“Here it is, in black and white: For our students to be prepared for college, they need to take an academically rigorous core curriculum during high school,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “And we’re moving toward that goal, especially as ACE goes into effect.”

ACE, Achieving Classroom Excellence, is a law passed in 2005 that established new high school graduation requirements. Beginning with the class of 2010, the core curriculum of college preparatory classes will become the default curriculum for high school students.

The core curriculum already is standard for students enrolled in Oklahoma’s Promise, a scholarship program that provides high school students whose families’ annual income is $50,000 or less an opportunity to earn free college tuition. Students in Oklahoma’s Promise must sign up for the program in the eighth, ninth or 10th grade and pass a 17-unit curriculum with at least a 2.5 grade point average.

The 2005-2006 Annual Student Remediation Report also showed remediation rates of first-time freshmen dropped by 0.9 of a percentage point from last year. More than 42,000 Oklahoma students enrolled in remedial courses during the 2005-2006 school year. A majority of those students – 79.3 percent – attended community colleges, which is the primary source of remediation nationally. This compares to 17.9 percent at Oklahoma’s regional universities and 2.7 percent at the state’s two research universities, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma.

Math continues to lead in subject areas requiring remediation for Oklahoma students. A total of 33.6 percent of students required math remediation, followed by 17.9 percent in English, 4.3 percent in reading and 1.8 percent in science.

The remediation report also showed that students who start college soon after high school are less likely to require remediation than older students. Forty-three percent of students who begin college after they are 21 years old require remedial courses. However, only 36 percent of freshmen who go to college immediately following high school require remediation.

Both reports will soon be available online at www.okhighered.org.