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This article reviews the need for remedial education, and why it has yielded limited results. Remedial education, also known as basic education or developmental education, refers to instruction provided to children, adolescents, and adults who lack fluency in reading, writing, mathematics, and other skills. Selected factors that account for the large number of students who leave high school not having learned basic skills are discussed, as well as what teachers need to know to present more effective instruction in reading, mathematics, and writing. Remedial education does not represent a short-term ...view middle of the document...
Upon college enrollment, the skills of these students are often tested to measure reading comprehension, mathematical understanding computational skills, and writing proficiency. Many first-year college students are subsequently required to enroll in remedial reading and reading mathematics classes. Mansfield and Farris (1991) reported that 74 percent of higher education institutions in the United States offered remedial education courses during 1989 and that 30 percent of first-year college students were enrolled in at least one remedial reading, writing, or mathematics class. Studies by the National Center for Education Statistics (2005b) have consistently found that public 2-year colleges have offered more remedial courses in reading, writing, and mathematics than other types of higher education institutions. A study by Shulock and Moore (2007) found that approximately 40 percent of first-time students in California community colleges who were not enrolled in a degree or certificate program were enrolled in courses to improve basic skills, job skills, or for personal enrichment. The wave of immigrants entering the United States since 1965 has resulted in millions more needing remedial education, particularly for developing fluency in speaking and reading English. The U.S. Census Bureau has projected that immigration will increase the U.S. population from 300 million in 2007 to 400 million in fewer than 50 years.
Remedial education lacks any specific definition. From the 1860s through the early 1960s, remedial education usually referred to a lack of achievement in reading, writing, or mathematics and to educational programs that provided instruction in these basic skills (Arendale, 2005). Since then, developmental education has been the preferred term and more frequently associated with college-age students. Remedial education is most commonly found in colleges, particularly in community colleges, although remedial instruction, usually remedial reading, is also taught in high schools and elementary schools. The National Center for Education Statistics (2005a) defines remedial reading as "instruction for a student lacking those reading, writing, or math skills necessary to perform college-level work at the level required by the attended institution" (NCES, 2005, p. 735). An increasing proportion of individuals receiving remedial education lack English fluency. Thus, remedial education is often taught by ESL teachers (teachers of English as a second language) or by ESOL teachers (teachers of English to speakers of other languages).
Educational Reforms in the United States
Many instructional, administrative, and legal reforms have been used to minimize the need for remedial education. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, created to assist children from low-income homes, was based upon the assumption children living in poverty needed more educational services than children from affluent homes. Head Start, part of ESEA, has...