Florida State University researchers have won a grant to study the effects of a new state law making remedial math, reading and writing courses optional for many students at Florida’s two- and four-year state colleges.
Students who entered high school in the past decade and earned Florida’s standard high school diploma no longer have to take remedial courses, according to the law passed last year. In the past, about half the students who took the state college placement exam had to take at least one remedial course.
National statistics show students who take remedial courses are less likely to finish their studies. The courses do not earn college credit, and student can not start on their degree until finishing the courses.
Florida college officials say those students are more likely to be returning to school while managing a job and a family. (For more on why this happens, check out our 13th Grade series)
The intent of the law was to make it easier and faster for students to finish their degrees. The Florida State researchers want to find out if that’s the case.
“This is the most significant state law affecting developmental education that we are aware of anywhere in the country,” FSU professor Shouping Hu said in a statement. “Because of its sweeping nature, it is critical that we begin documenting and evaluating its impact from the very beginning.”
Florida colleges have a handful of options to choose from for students who need remedial help.
At Hillsborough Community College students can now take shorter remedial courses better timed to when college-level courses begin. HCC students can also use college placement exam results to target just the areas they have problems with. HCC, Tallahassee Community College and others have also created new math courses, with less emphasis on algebra, for students not planning for a science, technology, engineering or math career.
Other schools are allowing students to take college-level courses at the same time they are finishing remedial courses.
Florida colleges need to have the new programs in place when the classes start this fall. Hillsborough Community College and other schools rolled out the new programs this spring as a test run when student enrollment is lower.
The schools say they plan to get together and compare notes about what percentage of students opted out of the remedial courses, and which programs to speed the remedial process worked best.
The Florida State University researchers say they want to provide more evidence as Florida colleges evaluate their programs. The study is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.