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The Risks of Remedial Courses

Students who underperform in their college-level courses are switched to remedial courses to help close the knowledge gap. These courses are designed to develop students’ core knowledge before they move on to college-level education. However, students from low-income households are placed in remedial courses at a disproportionate rate. On one hand, this may seem helpful for students who are underprepared for a more cognitively demanding workload. Yet remedial courses are keeping students behind and displacing them from a grade-level education amongst their peers.

According to Mr. Marvin Perry, remedial courses are a band-aid solution to a much greater problem. In theory, they should build students’ confidence and encourage higher education by facilitating the transition into the college curriculum. However, they tend to isolate students who are most likely to give up on higher education:

“…Whenever you are making a child feel that he has to take something that is less than what the normal child or his peers are engaged in, then that has a negative impact on that person who’s taking those remedial courses. It makes them feel less than or makes them wonder, ‘why I’m not taking regular courses?’” (Dr. Marvin Perry)

Remedial courses aren’t a sufficient way to challenge kids while also teaching them at their grade level. It makes students feel as though they aren’t fit for a college education and that education overall is not for them. In addition, remedial courses don’t count towards their college credits, which means they are left behind and spend longer in college than students of higher socio-economic status. What is the solution?

“…Anytime we want to challenge an individual, we need to make them perform at a level that is conducive to the folks that they’re going to be competing against… The best way to make a student smarter and better is to make him take the traditional course that everyone else has to take and push them to the next level. I think its an injustice when we bring out programs that allow kids to perform on course work that is not at the same level as those who are going into college” (Dr. Marvin Perry)

According to Dr. Marvin Perry, the solution lies in creating a different approach to teaching children of low-income families. It starts from an early age, teaching them rigorously at challenging levels and teaching them to read and write early so they can keep working hard and challenging themselves later on in life. In essence, children of low-income households don’t have the resources of their higher-income peers. Whereas students of higher-income families spend their summers in educational camps and libraries, children of low-income households don’t have access to these resources. This accounts for the knowledge gap in the first place and remedial courses aren’t enough to elevate the students who need them most.

In “The DTD Podcast: Leadership In the Urban Market”, Dr. Tekemia Dorsey and Dr. Marvin Perry discuss more in detail why remedial courses aren’t helpful and different ways to help close the knowledge gap. (Link Blog #1 here)

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