Online remedial program could help SD's college-bound studentsAs more college students need remedial courses, new strategies set to halt trends.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
SPEARFISH — The percentage of state university students who failed all four parts of South Dakota’s sophomore proficiency examinations ticked upward last academic year. The 11.2 percent was the worst performance in at least five years.
The state Board of Regents, whose members govern the universities, received presentations Wednesday about the latest round of CAAP results and about a process under way on the campuses to redesign remedial courses.
The one-year rise from 10.8 to 11.2 percent was described as slight by Daniel J. Palmer, director of institutional research for the public university system. The overall trend, however, has been in the wrong direction. The percentages were 9.0 five years ago followed by 9.6 and 9.5.
Those statistics refer to students taking the tests for the first time. They are allowed to re-test twice during the next calendar year. If they still fail to post acceptable scores, they aren’t allowed to re-enroll at the state universities.
The exams cover writing, math, reading and science. South Dakota uses a national test designed by the makers of the ACT. Generally, South Dakota students as a group score above the national average in all four areas.
But the 15-year trends show South Dakota students gradually slipping in the national rankings. For the 2011-2012 academic year, they had their weakest showings ever in writing, reading and science.
The results show a need in South Dakota for remediation most in writing. That has been true throughout the past five years, according to Palmer.
State university officials and the state Education Department have been working on a program where high school students can take remedial courses in math and English before they graduate.
State Education Secretary Melody Schopp sent letters in October to students and their families if the students scored below minimum thresholds of 20 in math and 18 in English on their ACTs.
The South Dakota Virtual School, which Schopp spearheaded in her previous roles in the department, will offer on-line courses starting in January that can be used for remediation. They will cost $125 to $175, which is less than the cost of remedial courses at the universities.
Meanwhile, the regents’ central office has asked the universities to submit proposals to use part of a $300,000 pool to redesign remedial courses to be more effective. The goal is to reduce college drop-outs.
Approximately 2 percent of the students ultimately leave state universities altogether because they can’t pass the proficiency tests.
Northern State University had the greatest remediation needs overall last year with 11.7 percent in writing, 2.7 percent in math, 6.6 percent in reading and 1.5 percent in science.
There were high remedial needs at several other campuses.
Black Hills State University results indicated 10.3 percent in writing, 3.3 percent in math, 4.8 percent in reading and 1.8 percent in science.
At Dakota State University, remediation was required for 9.4 percent in writing, 2.4 percent in math, 8.4 percent in reading and 0.7 percent in science.
The state’s two largest public universities finished in the middle for remediation.
South Dakota State University’s results were 7.5 percent in writing, 1.1 percent in math, 3.5 percent in reading and 0.2 percent in science.
The University of South Dakota was 8.0 percent in writing, 1.8 percent in math, 3.3 percent in reading and 0.5 percent in science.
The fewest remediation needs were identified at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, with 6.2 percent in writing, zero in math, 2.2 percent in reading and zero in science.