The Colorado departments of education and higher education jointly released a study recently showing students who need remediation or who were on track toward postsecondary readiness could have been identified by looking at student achievement results from as early as sixth grade.
In a first analysis that bridges student performance data from the K-12 system to higher education, the analysis looked at the remediation needs of 17,500 students who graduated from Colorado high schools in the spring of 2009 and who then entered Colorado postsecondary institutions in the fall of the same year. Most of these students attended Colorado middle schools in 2003 (sixth-grade: 15,079) and 2005 (eighth-grade: 15,979).
The authors of the research concluded that there was “a high degree” of agreement between sixth-grade student assessment results and the need for remediation in the first year of college. Remediation is the process colleges use to bring basic skills—such as in reading, writing and mathematics—up to college levels so students stay on track to complete standard degree requirements.
The report, “Shining A Light On Remediation,” concludes that the combination of results from the ACT, a college entrance exam, and 10th-grade CSAP (Colorado Student Assessment Program) “clearly identified most of the students who needed remediation” in their first year of postsecondary education.
“By examining assessment results from as early as the sixth-grade,” the report states, “it was also clear that if students were not proficient on the state assessment at that time they were very likely to require remediation later when they entered college.”
Use of data urged
The report urges use of the data to make adjustments for students who are behind.
“If middle schools were to use the state assessment data to identify low performers, they would better know which students would be very likely be postsecondary ready and which students would not. The assessment results could also be used to target the academic skills of struggling students early in middle school to focus on preparing them to be postsecondary ready,” the report states.
Dianne Lefly, director of research and evaluation at the Colorado Department of Education, said the analysis confirms the validity of CSAP and ACT as reliable indicators of student performance in college.
“We have known for a long time that ACT and CSAP results are highly correlated,” said Lefly. “This analysis confirms that those assessments are useful and can be used accordingly by educators.”
Co-authors of the report include Cheryl D. Lovell, chief academic officer for the Colorado Department of Higher Education, and Jo O’Brien, assistant commissioner, CDE.
Lefly noted the study would not have been possible without Senate Bill 08-212, the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids (or CAP4K). Under that bill, CDE and the Colorado Department of Higher Education jointly developed and adopted a description of “postsecondary and workforce readiness” that defines the essential knowledge, skills and behaviors common to high school graduation, college entrance and workforce readiness.
Legislation paves way for more research
One core idea of the legislation was to create a seamless experience for students transitioning out of high school. To that end, the legislation directed postsecondary institutions to use the same state-assigned student identification number that’s used in the K-12 system as an alternate identifier to their own numbers, allowing for data to be shared.
“Colorado educators have never been in a position until now to examine how well the CSAP results are predictive of college remediation needs,” the report states.
In 2009, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education reported that 29.3 percent of students who enrolled in a postsecondary institution in Colorado for the first time required remediation in basic content areas of reading, writing and mathematics. Students attending two-year institutions needed considerably more remediation (52.7 percent) than did students attending four-year schools (19.9 percent).
The report analyzes results from what’s known as the ACT for Colorado – which all high school juniors complete under the state’s assessment system. The report also follows students who scored proficient or above – and those below proficiency – on the 2003 sixth-grade CSAP. In reading, for instance, there were 1,199 students as sixth-graders who applied and were accepted six years later to two-year institutions of higher education and who also required remediation. Of those students, 66.3 percent (795 students) scored below proficiency in sixth-grade reading while 33.7 percent (404 students) did not.
Looking at the same group of sixth-graders who were bound for two-year institutions but those who did not require remediation, 14.7 percent (330 students) scored below proficiency on CSAP while 85.3 percent (1,913 students) scored at proficiency or above.
A similar trend was apparent for the sixth-grade students who took CSAP in sixth-grade and were bound for a four-year institution. Here, students who ended up needing remediation in college were drawn almost equally from those who scored below proficiency (47.8 percent) and those proficient or above (52.2 percent) but 93.7 percent of students (10,431 in all) who needed no remediation also scored at proficient or above on the sixth-grade reading assessment.
The report also analyzes similar results for mathematics and across various subgroups by gender, ethnicity, among English learners and non-English learners and among students with disabilities and those with no disabilities.
Want to know about the remediation rates at your child’s high school or district? Click on this searchable database.
About our First Person series:
First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.