Almost a quarter of Idaho high school graduates attending Boise State University are so far behind on their English and math skills, they're required to take remedial courses to catch up. In some cases, more than half of the students from an Idaho high school arrive unprepared for basic freshman-level college classes.
Data from Boise State University show that in the 2010 class, 388 BSU students less than a year out of high school had to take remedial classes in English, math or both. Remedial courses at the college level are designed to bring a high school graduate's mastery of math, English or both to a twelfth grade level in preparation for the student's first year of college. Such classes come at a major expense to taxpayers as well as students. Remedial classes don't count as class credits needed to graduate.
In the case of mathematics, of all the students who are attending Boise State for the first time in the 2010 school year, more than 19 percent (219 of the 1161 High School graduates less than one year out of school) were placed into a below level math course to remediate them and bring them up to grade level. The top five Idaho high schools with graduates moving on to college at BSU immediately after graduating that were required to take one or more remedial math classes were Frank Church, Homedale, Vallivue, Nampa, and Caldwell.
Remedial math courses cover topics such as a “review of arithmetic (fractions, negative numbers, and percents), an introduction to graphing, and an introduction to variables, simplifying algebraic expressions, and solving linear equations." A course in elementary algebra is where the student receives a brief review of arithmetic operations and their properties, positive integer exponents, variables, and simple “word problems” as an example. These are principles and materials covered in public schools in the sixth grade.
Students did better in English, requiring less remedial work. The data show that 14 percent (156 of 1161) of the incoming first year BSU students were required to take remedial English courses. The top five Idaho schools with graduates needing remedial English instruction at BSU are Homedale, Frank Church, Caldwell, Weiser, and Minico.
According to the BSU course catalog, remedial English class provides “introduction to college writing with attention to fluency, development, organization, revision, and editing/proofreading.” Again, this material is introduced to student beginning in the Fourth grade of the public school system throughout Idaho.
Clearly, something is wrong in Idaho's public schools if a quarter of high school graduates -- students who are have received a certificate indicating that they've successfully completed high school instruction -- show up at college requiring remedial education.
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