Not ready for college: Report says 51 percent in NM take remediation classes

By Rob Nikolewski on January 24, 2014
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NOT SO FAST: A study shows that 51 percent of high school students in New Mexico need to take remediation classes at the state’s colleges and universities,

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

SANTA FE  – The numbers aren’t good but, then again, they haven’t been good for years.

A  showed that a majority of New Mexico students entering colleges in the state are not, in fact, ready to tackle college-level classes without taking remedial work.

The 48-page report produced by the shows 51 percent of students coming from the state’s public schools needed to go take remediation classes — also known as developmental courses — once they entered New Mexico’s public colleges and universities.

The study did not account for students who attended colleges and universities outside of New Mexico.

The problem is not a new one. In the most recent 11 years of data, the percentage of students needing to take developmental courses in their freshman years has remained steady – between 47 and 53 percent.

The area of study where students took the most remediation classes? Math. Here’s the breakdown by subject:

The study also had more than a few alarming findings.

For example, 77 percent of students who completed Algebra II still needed to take remedial math classes in their first year of college and 42 percent of those who completed trigonometry in high school needed remedial work:

And students who need remedial work have a strikingly lower chance of ever earning a bachelor’s degree or even a higher education certificate.

Students in the study who did not need any remedial classes had a 77 percent chance of earning a degree within six years. But if they need to take just one developmental course, the  number plummeted to 17 percent.

A mere 5 percent taking two remediation classes managed to graduate in six years while only 1 percent graduated if they took three remedial classes and no students at all graduated if they needed four or more:

All told, New Mexico spent $22 million in 2013 on remedial courses.

“There is a large portion of students who are not ready for college,” told . “It’s a multi-layered problem that includes everything from early preparation to alignment of high school courses work with college course work to college achievement gaps. There’s a lot of moving parts.”

“We’re still not reaching the levels of instruction that students need,” said state , a retired teacher.

For LFC member and state , the report underscores the need to improve educational reform efforts, in which New Mexico has consistently finished near the bottom in national rankings.

“We’re certain of one thing,” Larrañaga said. “What we’re doing now is not adequate. When it comes to moving the needle in the right direction, we’re not doing it with the existing system.”

Among the recommendations made by the authors of the study: Better coordination between the state’s high schools and colleges in determining which students are really prepared for college-level and having the revise its A-through-F grading system to include college readiness.

to read the entire study.

Contact Rob Nikolewski at and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski 

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3 Comments For This Post So Far

  1. J W
    5:43 pm on January 24th, 2014

    And the NM teacher union resists any change that hold the current system accountable?? OK

  2. Oaken Truncheon
    8:45 pm on January 24th, 2014

    Algebra, an Islamic invention, sticks with you a little longer than Chinese take-out, but not much.

  3. Joy Garratt
    6:20 am on January 28th, 2014

    The NM teachers unions, for there are two of them, do not resist reform. They advocate for reform. However, they advocate for reform that is legislated and fair and involves all stakeholders at the table. A reform bill passed the Senate and the House last session but was vetoed by Gov. Martinez because it did not reflect the letter of the laws she wanted passed, laws that came intact, if you read their web site, from the Foundation for Excellence in Education in Florida. Reform–true reform–comes when the stakeholders come together and truly listen to one another and come up with that third alternative, not rehashed bills from other states.

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