Developmental Education: “Follow the Money”

So there’s been a flurry of news about developmental education (a.k.a., remediation) lately, like this, coming out of last weekend’s national conference for community colleges. We’ve had some of our own discussions about these topics, too (e.g., here and here and here and here), and I was reminded while sifting through various reports on remediation of  a comment by our own MathisSexy, which I’ve highlighted in the title.

It seems that, at the moment, remediation is where the money is.

From the article:

Community colleges should replace weak remedial programs with innovative practices as a way to increase completion rates, Melinda F. Gates, co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told two-year college leaders Tuesday as she delivered the closing speech here at the American Association of Community Colleges’ annual meeting.

To that end, Ms. Gates said that her foundation is spending up to $110-million to work with dozens of partners, including colleges and school districts, to develop groundbreaking models for remedial education and to replicate effective practices.

There’s a fair amount of hype about it, too, as here. Apparently, it is not Math that is sexy; it is remedial math that is sexy and remediation which will save the civitas.

Yet, as committed as I am to the idea of an open enrollment institution of higher education, I am, when this topic arises, driven back to the comments of a former colleague (and philosopher, Jim Schulz), who thought it to be a moral imperative that a college, community or otherwise, NOT willingly accept the role of preparing students to be in itself.

His argument as expressed at one of the first department meetings I ever attended was, to paraphrase, that we have few resources, and our job is to be a college, not a preparatory school for college. Thus, he argued, we should direct the resources we have toward those students who are ready to be in college and already in college with us (but otherwise excluded from the opportunity), rather than drain off significant resources from that task to do the work that ought to be done by the high schools. By agreeing to fix their failures, he argued, we let them off the hook for what they don’t do and do so at the expense of the students whom we’re supposed to serve.

I didn’t agree with him then, and I don’t now. I do, however, think about his argument often.