A complaint about UC’s view on remedial math as taught in community colleges appeared today in the Sacramento Bee: (excerpt)
Community colleges are struggling to address a huge problem: remedial mathematics. In fall 2009, 143,587 California community college students enrolled in remedial math to become eligible for college math, but only 18 percent went on to complete a college math course within three years. Given these results, policymakers are questioning the use of scarce public dollars to "pay for the same education twice." If students didn't learn algebra in high school, why are we paying for it again in college? Are these students even cut out for college? Here's the good news: A growing number of community colleges have developed an innovative new approach for students who are under-prepared for college math. It is less expensive than the traditional curriculum and significantly more effective. The innovation has been spotlighted by several national organizations focused on college completion.
Now the bad news: The approach may be killed before the year is out. At least 16 California community colleges are offering a new pathway for students in majors that are not algebra-intensive. Instead of spending up to four semesters reviewing arithmetic and algebra, students in the new pathways might spend just one semester in a prerequisite course tailored to statistics.
The logic is simple: Different majors require different math preparation. An engineering student needs extensive algebra to be successful in a higher-level calculus course, while an English major needs very little algebra to be successful in statistics. If a student arrives underprepared for college-level work, shouldn't remediation focus on the math that students actually need in their chosen pathway, rather than simply repeating their prior schooling?
…Despite their promise, statistics pathways face formidable opposition from some faculty leaders in the community college system, as well as inside the University of California and California State University systems. Faculty widely acknowledge that little algebra is needed for the study of statistics. However, a vocal contingent continues to insist that all students should be required to complete intermediate algebra, whether or not it is relevant to their major. This vocal contingent is fighting hard to block pathway reform. The battleground is whether CSU and UC will recognize the new courses as valid prerequisites for college statistics. If they insist that only intermediate algebra will be recognized as proof of "college readiness" in math – and refuse to award transfer credit for statistics courses with alternative remedial preparation – the reform is unlikely to survive...
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