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The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel editorial board released this op-ed asserting the important role higher standards have played in the downward trend in remediation rates.

By The Daily Sentinel

Colorado’s move to adopt higher educational standards back in 2009 arose from an alarming number of high school graduates forced to enroll in remedial classes in college.

In the six years since, additional reforms led to more assessments, unfunded mandates and teacher accountability standards. Predictably, a backlash followed and this spring lawmakers passed a series of compromises aimed at reducing the testing load, but keeping high standards and accountability measures in place.

Meanwhile, the push for higher standards seem to be working. On Friday, The Sentinel’s Emily Shockley reported that the number of students enrolled at Colorado Mesa University who had to take remedial courses dipped from 36.2 percent in 2012-13 to 29.6 percent in 2013-14.

That’s encouraging. Any improvement is good, but it’s also a shame that nearly three in 10 CMU students have to pay tuition for remedial courses. These classes don’t earn students credit toward a degree but are necessary to get them up to speed for classes that do count.

CMU has programs in place to help remedial students succeed and move on. Remediation rates reflect the preparedness of the enrollees. CU-Boulder has a remediation rate of less than 1 percent. But five other public four-years schools in the state have higher remediation rates than CMU. These are figures provided by the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

CMU draws applicants from around the country, so it’s not necessarily a good reflection of how well our local schools are preparing graduates for college. Three of the Grand Valley’s four high schools showed improvement in remediation rates among graduates who enrolled at a public two- or four-year institution in Colorado in fall 2013.

Fruita Monument was actually up a tick to 38.7 percent (compared to 37 percent in 2012), but still better than Grand Junction High School (38.9 percent, down from 40.3 percent in 2012). Palisade High School showed the biggest improvement dropping to 25.9 percent from 38.7 percent in 2012. Central High School had the highest remediation rate, 49.7 percent, but improved from 52.1 percent in 2012.

Western Colorado Community College, which draws largely from local high schools, improved its remediation rate from 79.1 percent in 2012-13 to 74.6 percent in 2013-14.

Clearly, there’s room for improvement. But the downward trend in remediation rates tells us that adopting higher standards was the right move. We expect School District 51’s plan to phase in a competency-based learning system to further reduce the number of college students playing catch-up. This system emphasizes mastery of concepts and aims to give students more ownership of their education.

In the meantime, let’s not forget why high standards, strong testing and accountability are so important: to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s high-skill jobs and to ensure a prosperous economic future for the entire state.

This originally appeared in The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.