Denver Offers HS Grads Remedial Courses for College Readiness

Denver Public School is introducing a program aimed at high school graduates who are hoping to go to college but do not have the required academic skills. Ordinarily, students in that situation would have to enroll in remedial courses offered by their colleges which are not only expensive but also don't provide any college credit. Now – at least in math and English – they will have a different option.

DPS will offer free remedial courses to the district's high school graduates in order to reduce the number of students who need remediation when they enter college. According to LayLynn McAbee, one of thousands of high schoolers in Denver who are taking advantage of the program, the offered courses not only help students prepare for college, but also give them a chance to experience what college-level work is like without having to pay a dime.

More than 60 percent of DPS students needed remediation once they entered college, according to the 2012 Remedial Education Report. The number is considerably higher than the state average of 40 percent.

"What we wanted to do for sure is see how we tackle that — not run away from it but how we could actually change it into a positive reality for our students," said Bernard McCune, executive director for DPS's office of college and career readiness.

According to the Denver Post, the summer program is an interesting approach to a difficult problem, but doesn't do very much to address the core problem: that Denver high schools are not preparing their students for college in high enough numbers. While the DPS remedial courses fill the gap, real change will require an overhaul of school curriculum to make sure that high school graduates have the tools they need to succeed in college.

"We should be really focusing as early as possible rather than waiting until the summer before they are entering college," Schoales said. "I think there should be interventions anywhere along the way, for anybody that wants to go to college, but it makes more sense to catch kids earlier in ninth, 10th and 11th grade rather than waiting until now."

The summer program is useful in that it shifts the financial burden away from the student, but by offering it the district takes on expenses that could run as high as $58 million over just one academic year. It's not a bad thing to provide options for students in this way, but a more comprehensive approach would require also looking at ways to reduce the number of high schoolers who require remediation upon graduation.

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