According to Out of Pocket,
writers, Mary Nguyen Barry & Michael Dannenberg, writing for Education Reform Now (ERN), American education isn’t making the grade. Their premise is that students from all income levels have need for college level remediation courses arguably because they are not well taught in public schools. Their main finding is that Remedial education is not a phenomenon confined to low income students or community colleges. It affects students from a broad range of incomes, including those from middle-class, upper-middle-class and high income families. To understand their proofs a little better, I decided to look at their data more closely.
So, how are we doing?
Barry and Dannenberg argue that of the 25% of students who need to take remedial courses in college, 45% come from middle, upper middle and high income families. This doesn’t fit with the numbers I see. When I look at the data, nearly three fourths of remedial first year college students are from families who make $74k or less a year. There is no information provided about family size, and the disputed bracket of 16.9% starts at $48,001 and tops out at $74,000. But, Dannenberg argued that I had fallen victim to coastal bias. So, I decided to see what the federal government identifies as low income. Note: They set eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP at 200% of the poverty level.
Based on that data, a family of four would be eligible for medicaid and food stamps and still make it into the ERN forty-five percent of middle, upper middle and high income families. So, only 28% of the 25% of students who need remediation (roughly .0625 or 6 of 100 remedial students) can be guaranteed to be middle class or higher. The rest are low income students. This supports the argument that students from lower income families are less prepared for college than their wealthier peers. It doesn’t argue at all for the assertion that the middle class are poorly served by their schools.