Richard Mohammed always thought of himself as a pretty good student.
He graduated from Olney High School in 2005 with a B-plus average and optimistically entered Bucks County Community College, eager to study nursing.
But assessment tests showed that his reading and writing skills were poor, and the college insisted he take two remedial courses in high school English to catch up.
“I can honestly say my high school didn’t prepare me for college,” said Mohammed, 24, of Feasterville, married father of a 5-year-old girl. “I was getting my butt kicked in college. I didn’t have a proper background.”
Like Mohammed, large numbers of high school graduates are surprised to learn the diplomas they were handed in June don’t necessarily mean they’re ready for college in the fall.
For many of them, there’s a disconnect between what high schools require for graduation and what colleges seek.
Traditionally, that gap has been bridged by remedial courses—high school English, even middle school math—taught in college.
Nearly 45 percent of community college students and 27 percent of four-year college students have taken at least one remedial course, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Experts such as Thomas Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University, said his research showed that the remedial rate for community college students may be closer to 60 percent.
Why do so many students require so much help? Blame it on the kindergarten-through-12th-grade system, education experts say.
“If the job is done right the first time, in K-through-12, you don’t need remediation,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and a former governor of West Virginia. “Remediation is paying for the same education twice.”