According to the 2015 Data Book issued by the Maryland Higher Education Commission, in 2011-2012, 50.1% of Montgomery County residents entering the state institutions of higher learning needed remediation. Figures published in the 2014 Data Book show that in 2010-2011 only 44.2% of Montgomery County residents needed remediation. Go back another year to 2009-2010, and the remediation rates for residents in the county entering institutions of higher learning was 47.7%, while during 2008-2009 it stood at 46.5%.
Clearly, nearly 50% of Montgomery County high school students entering institutions of higher learning in the state, needed remediation.
If one were to make a reasonable assumption that the 2010 MCPS graduating cohort were the nearly 50.1% who needed remediation in 2011-2012, some interesting comparisons can be made. “Even as AP exam participation climbed to historic high in 2010, MCPS students of all races/ethnicities set MCPS records for the number of AP exams that earned scores of 3 or higher,” asserted a report issued by the district. “The positive trends in AP exam participation and performance,” continued the report, “provide evidence of the effectiveness of continuing MCPS’ efforts to ensure inclusive and challenging curricular opportunities for students of all races/ethnicities and to prepare all students for college-level work.”
The effectiveness of preparing “all students for college-level work,” it seems, was not reflected in a decrease in the numbers of students needing remediation.
The figures are even more surprising given the fact that during this very year the district was also claiming to have decoded the keys to college readiness. To quote another report issued that year, “One of the seven keys to college readiness established by MCPS is attainment of an SAT combined score of 1650 or higher (MCPS, 2010). Scoring 1650 on the SAT (Key 7) is correlated with a higher likelihood of college acceptance and a minimal probability of being required to take remedial courses upon entry to college.” According to the report, 50.8% of the class of 2010 scored 1650 or higher and 50.1% who entered institutions in state required remediation. On the other hand, 50.2% of the Class of 2006, scored 1650 or higher on the SAT. Of these students, presumably in institutions of higher learning during 2007-2008, 54.4% needed remediation. There is little evidence, based on the available data, to conclude that SAT scores of 1650 or higher correlated with lower remediation rates. The Seven Keys to College Readiness, which were promised a “makeover,” have all but disappeared. A dedicated webpage, www.mcps7keys.org, leads to nowhere. The original “research” on which the district based the claim of having decoded the keys to college success seems to be no more than a correlational analysis that was interpreted as causation. The idea that a student could be deemed to be college-bound trajectory from a kindergarten reading level to a fifth-grade math level has all but evaporated.
The district’s various claims of having found predictors of degree completion seem to be just that—claims unsubstantiated by peer-reviewed research.
How can a public school system, many wonder, in one of the most educated communities in the United States, get away with claims that don’t stand the test of fact?