N + 1 article – but different

Posted on January 7, 2020


I get to eat some words πŸ™‚

Alexandra Logue tweeted that hey, there was lots of evidence that supporting students in college level math *worked* with a link to a study: “Should Students Assessed as Needing Remedial Mathematics Take College-Level Quantitative Courses Instead? A Randomized Controlled Trial.”

Erm. Yes. I was skeptical. And when I glanced through and saw that the study screened for students who opted into it, were freshman right out of high school, and at A Certain Level of remediation, it smelled an awful lot like … the other studies I’ve read about.

Well, this mornign I had to return the rental for my drive East and back (very thankful that I stick to the more southern I-68 instead of PA Turnpike, which had enough more snow/ice to have a horrific wreck with a tour bus and semi trucks…)… the Enterprise guy took me to work but it was bus trip back, so golden opportunity to actually peruse said study.

First and foremost, the “opting in” was to the study in general (as in, you don’t do research on people without consent). The students were *then* randomly assigned into “remedial algebra” like they would have been assigned, “remedial algebra with support,” and “actual statistics as in college level with support.” So. Kinda huge. Now, the opting in *did* say “hey, you’ve a 1 in 3 chance of being in the group that has the chance to skip all this remedial stuff entirely!” but… basically that was it. Teachers weren’t even told the details — just that they were trying to include a group of students who otherwise would be in remedial sections.

Notes as I read… the “3 reasons why co-req shoudl work” were that a: the assessments could be wrong about some students, b: spending a full semester in “not college” is de-motivating and c: good grief, lots of stats is less abstract manipulation of symbols and is connected to the real world.

( I wish that somehow quality of instruction could be worked in here…)

Now, regarding the Certain Level, more on that later but in discussing “other things people tried,” more intensive global remediation is available for students “with multiple remediation needs.” So, these students aren’t being dismissed here. The “certain level” and their being first-time freshmen intending to major in disciplines not requiring college algebra … were for statistical consistency, not to filter for better odds of things looking like they were working. There were so many other meticulous and laborious examples of attention to those kinds of details — go ahead and read it πŸ˜‰ Actual… control group research… as if it were science and not “well I said I’d do somethign for this journal and I want funding for my program and I JUST KNOW IT WORKS.” Stuff was *analyzed.* πŸ™‚

The other huge “okay, I was wrong about this one happiness was that

“All outcomes other than a passing grade, including any type of withdrawal or grade of incomplete, were categorized as not passing.”

Oh. Another “that changes things.” So many other “successes” only count course completers, despite the fact that many if not most students if they know aren’t passing will “take a W” rather than an F. Many steps were taken to ensure instruction was consistent and differences in teaching weren’t the hidden factor.

Oh, and another thing: the “support” wasn’t just academic. The support included bus passes so students could get there. The “workshops” to supplement the instruction were well designed.

The folks in the stats class w/ support had the best results — *and* because the students were allowed to take college level stuff otherwise… they did well in those courses, too, supporting that idea that “well, actually, knowing the quadratic formula isn’t what gets you through college level courses.”

Now, I still don’t like the word “all” in there with the relatively unqualified “college leve with support.” I know administrators and legislators who really think gateway courses *should* filter out an awful lot of people, so “put ’em all in college level — here’s some support! Sink or swim!” happens. YES, many of the sinkers have been sinking in how we currently do “developmental math,” but it’s not because they “really could do it if they tried harder with a little help.”

Imagine if the studnets could opt in to arithmetic remediation like in this study and then do this πŸ˜‰

And yes, I’ll be sharing this πŸ™‚

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