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July 28, 2014

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Nearly half of Nevada students need remedial courses

Percentage of students needing remediation from 2002 to 2005:

It cost $6.6 million in the last two years to teach those students what they should have learned in high school, the Nevada System of Higher Education report said.

Out of the 8,111 recent Nevada high school graduates entering college in the summer and fall, 3,269 enrolled in a remedial course in English or math, the report showed. One out of three of those students took both.

About 37 percent -- or 1,800 -- stu- dents from Clark County needed help, compared with 40 percent statewide and 47 percent in Washoe County. The extra help for Clark County students cost more than $2 million.

The report comes at the direction of the Legislature. Lawmakers seethed during the 2005 Legislature that "remedial" and "scholar" were being uttered in the same breath, and banned scholarship students from using the money for remedial classes.

One of every three students using the Millennium Scholarship in fall 2004 needed at least one remedial class, compared with half of non-Millennium students.

Lawmakers mandated that all remedial classes be offered at the com- munity college level by this fall because of the cost. It costs $329 a credit to offer remedial classes at the university level, compared with $227 at the community college level. Under heavy pressure from lawmakers to end the need for costly remedial education, Community College of Southern Nevada officials are working with the Clark County School

District on several initiatives to better prepare high school students for college.

The renewed effort is due in part to the complaints of lawmakers in the 2005 session that they were paying to educate students twice. During the session, higher education and the K-12 system were fighting for money and blaming each other for deficiencies.

Chancellor Jim Rogers made a push to get the systems to cooperate and brought in Larry Mason, a Clark County School Board member, to work with both School District and higher education officials to help create a "seamless" transition between high school and college. "We need to work together on solving the problems," Mason said. Chief among the initiatives is a joint effort to have high school juniors take the college placement exams and identify those whose scores would place them in remedial classes.

The goal is to warn students who are "remediation bound" so they can "fix the problem before they get to us," said Jane Nichols, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs.

This includes pushing juniors to take the ACT, which will give them a rough idea of where they would be placed, and having them take placement tests offered at the community college, Nichols said.

CCSN plans to offer its math placement exam to juniors as soon as this February, and the English essay exam within the next six months.

Those who score low on the math test would be sent letters encouraging them to take math their senior year, said Eun- Woo Chang, CCSN's interim dean of Math and Sciences. Many students need remedial work for college because they slack off as seniors, education officials said.

College professors are also developing summer and afterschool programs to help high school students improve and are starting to work more with high school teachers to improve the curriculum so stu- dents do not need remedial work, said Michael Richards, CCSN vice president for academic affairs.

For instance, the college is making its English placement test available to high school teachers so they can see how essays are scored and what skills students need to be able to do college level work, said Carlos Campo, CCSN's interim dean of Arts and Letters.

Such initiatives go a long way to making students and teachers more aware of what is required at the college level, said Jane Kadoich, director of guidance services for the School District.

Kadoich, Mason and higher education officials agreed that the key to reducing the need for remedial classes was to get students thinking about col- lege as early as possible and to get them in as many college preparation classes as possible.

Down the road, Kadoich and Mason said they wanted to see an increase in the School Dis- trict's offerings of advance placement classes and classes that offer both high school and college credit. They also ap- plauded UNLV and Nevada State College's development of an English course that gives ex- tra help to those students who are on the border between re- medial and regular English courses.

The five-credit class counts as an English 101 course if students pass, college officials said, but gives the students more time and attention to bring their writing skills up to par.

All of the current efforts are focused on students coming directly out of high school, and will not end the need for remedial education for older stu- dents who need refresher courses, college officials said. Recent high school graduates account for only 35 per- cent of the students enrolled in remedial classes at UNLV and only 15 percent of the remedial students at CCSN, according to the report.

"A lot of people at whatever age want to improve themselves and better their lives," Richards said. "And sometimes they just need a little refresher to do that. That's why we are here."

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