What can or should be done?
Jagler is a Republican member of the state Assembly from Watertown. He said he got interested in this when he heard about students who graduated from high school in good standing, enrolled at a UW campus, took placement tests and were assigned to remedial courses. He said one parent asked him, “What happened? My kid has to take remedial math?”
Yup. In December 2013, UW officials released a report that showed that almost a quarter of students systemwide were required to take remedial courses. About 20% were assigned to math remediation and a bit under 10% to English remediation (the numbers overlap because some need both).
The math figure was at 20% in 1990, but it trended down to about 10% by 2000 before heading back up to the one-in-five mark by 2007. It stayed there in following years.
At some campuses, and for graduates of some high schools, the remedial percentage is surely lower. And for some it is much higher. The 2013 report showed the remedial rate at UW-Madison was less than 1%.For UW-Milwaukee, it was almost 37% and for UW-Parkside, it was over 65%.
Jagler has an additional question: How come so little is known about this? UW officials have compiled reports on remediation, and they have detailed their work dealing with it. But the issue gets little attention, the data is not widely known and results haven’t improved much. What this means and what can be done have been rather quiet issues.
Jagler became the lead sponsor of a little-noted bill that was approved by both houses of the Legislature and signed a few days ago by Gov. Scott Walker that calls for UW administrators to determine which public high schools (including charter schools, but not private schools) send into the UW system more than six graduates in any given year who need remedial math and/or English.
The new law calls for UW to send a report on what schools make that list to appropriate legislative committees and to the state superintendent of public instruction. (Department of Public Instruction officials asked during the legislative process to be included in the law since they, too, wanted to see the list.)