In light of recent reports that a high number of high school graduates are failing college placement tests, the Northern Marianas College opened up its records showing several hundreds of students the last three years have been placed under its remedial education, which refers to classes taken by students who are below college-level or in non-degree units.
Records obtained by Saipan Tribune show that there are approximately 650 students under the NMC remedial education this Fall 2012 semester, a figure that would still increase as data for Math is not yet made available last Friday.
The 650 student population-which covers all students from both public and private high schools-are for developmental reading, writing, and listening and speaking courses.
In Fall 2010, the college recorded a significant volume of students in the same remedial classes with a total of 696. It just slightly dropped in the succeeding semesters with 641 students for Spring 2011; 636 students for Fall 2011; and down to 524 students in Spring 2012 semester. NMC, in a statement to Saipan Tribune, indicated that these numbers are impacted by overall enrollment for a particular semester.
NMC president Sharon Y. Hart, Ph.D, earlier disclosed that many high school graduates-mostly from public schools-have failed the college placement test which resulted in having them enrolled at remedial program. She described as “high” and “alarming” the percentage of students who fail placement tests every year.
To determine if students are eligible to enroll in college level courses, NMC conducts entrance examination called placement test, which measures the taker's knowledge in areas like English, math, and language arts. Result of this test dictates if a student can take the college English credit, for example.
Based on NMC data, the following are the percentage of students taking the test place into developmental courses: Fall 2010-76 percent; for Spring 2011-88 percent; for Fall 2011-84 percent; for Spring 2012--84.5 percent; for Fall 2012-82 percent.
According to Barbara Merfalen, NMC dean of academic programs and services, the concern on remedial education is not unique to the CNMI.
“It is important to note that the issue of students having to take remedial courses is not exclusive to NMC. Many students across the U.S. enter postsecondary education not fully prepared for college-level work, requiring them to take at least one remedial course,” Merfalen told Saipan Tribune, stressing that the national average for community college students placing into developmental English classes is 72 percent.
According to the dean, students cannot fail the placement test because students are placed in either developmental courses or College English, but she admitted that this is “depending upon the scores on the test.”
Saipan Tribune learned that the English test that is used at NMC is called “Accuplacer.” It is computer-based (www.accuplacer.com), and designed to test listening, reading, and grammar skills. There is also an essay-writing component to the test which is read and scored by three instructors in the Languages and Humanities department.
Action plan to help students pass placement test
Merfalen indicated that the NMC is launching, beginning this upcoming semester, several programs that will help students with their performance on the placement tests, including a “Math Boot Camp” class that gives students an opportunity to practice math problems, formulas, and equations prior to taking the placement test.
She said since 2010 the college has implemented the LinC Program at NMC that over time has included an English and Math remedial course, thus providing an opportunity for students to be supportive of each other, and to be tutored by trained ambassadors in the classroom.
NMC has also made it a requirement since last academic year to include as a core course, the BE111 College Success course, that is designed to assist students in making a successful transition to college and adult life beyond college as a result of becoming knowledgeable through exposure to four key instructional areas associated with academic and adult life success, namely; individual student success life plan, the process of navigating the college experience, classroom behavior strategies for students, and realization and maintaining personal well-being as a person going to college. Included also, is the ongoing collection and use of internal, state, national, and regional data when evaluating the remedial courses at NMC.
Merfalen added that the Languages and Humanities Department created a schedule for summer 2012 that was geared toward high school students who had just finished their high school courses in June; placement tests and eight-week accelerated courses in developmental English and College English were offered beginning in mid-June so high school students could attend these summer course and be better prepared to begin college courses in the fall.
Remedial education refers to classes taken by students that are below college-level or non-degree units. Students pay tuition and can use financial aid for remedial courses, but they do not receive college credit. With the constant increase in the number of students in remedial courses, it was revealed that this did not depict the purpose of the NMC which is to have all its student get a college degree. Additionally, because many students have been taking the remedial courses for long and while using the college federal aids, this may end up exhausting the institution's federal monies that it could actually utilize in other areas for actual college students. It was earlier pointed out that the remedial students are not receiving subsidy from the local budget received by the college.