What Florida Students, Teachers And Parents Think About Remedial Education

Dec 14, 2012

The series on remedial education exposed what some in the public school system at the secondary and college level already knew: that many students are graduating from high school unprepared for college. 

In 2010-11, 54 percent of students coming out of high school failed at least one subject on the Florida College System’s placement test.  That meant nearly 30,000 students – high school graduates – had to take at least one remedial course in college.

Shakira Lockett says in high school she typically earned As and Bs in her English classes. But at Miami Dade College, she had to take remedial courses in math, reading and writing.
Credit Sagette Van Embden / Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

Some students, like Shakira Lockett mentioned in our series, are surprised to find that while they passed or even did well in high school that they have to take remedial courses in college.  Danny from Miami says when he found out he had to take a remedial course, he was “mad at [him]self for not maximizing the opportunities I had while in school.” 

Others, like Alex from Miami, who struggled at Miami Dade College, says the problem was that his high school did not focus enough on students:

Too much focus was given to the FCAT. The administration worried more about being an "A" school to get more funds from MDCPS than how the students were doing academically…

Juan, a former teacher from Miami, agrees that the emphasis on the FCAT is misplaced.  He writes that:

[It] seems everyone forgets that the FCAT is a minimal standards examination. Students mistake the grade as mastery when in fact it denotes being average.

And being average according to the FCAT does not make you ready for college. Paul from Hollywood teaches composition at a college.  He tells us that:

I find many students who can't write simple assignments. Many don't know what a paragraph is. Many have grammar issues. Many tell me that they don't write in high school or that their writing isn't read or corrected. This seems to be common. Teaching writing is labor intensive, so I think many high school teachers just don't do it.

Some parents have found that their only option is take their child out of the public school system.  Marcelo, a parent from Coral Gables, says because of the failure of the public schools, private schools can charge such high tuition. 

That someone has to spend $22,000 per year to give a child basic education that, maybe 20 years ago, was part of our basic life in the States is sick.

He suggests that the solution may lie in the past. 

Perhaps there should be a retreat to 20 years ago when home-ec and mechanics were also taught in high school and prepared students for a “not college” life.

What do you think?  What should be the goal of a high school education?  

Tweet us #NPRedchat.  We will be talking more about remedial education on Wednesday, 12/19 at 4pm in an online forum with reporters Sarah Gonzalez of StateImpact Florida and McNelly Torres from the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.  

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