How to Close the Readiness Gap Now for Our High School Seniors
Readiness Courses can keep students who are almost ready for college out of remedial classes

Blog post John Squires, Director, High School to College Readiness, SREB

Get students the preparation they need during the high school years — not in college, when they have to pay for it.

Too many students graduate from high school thinking they’re ready for college, only to find themselves stuck in remedial classwork once they get there. This is a tragedy for the students. They believe — and why not? — that if they’re admitted to college they have what it takes to succeed there.

Yet they find themselves paying for remedial college courses to catch up on skills they should have learned for free in high school. And far too few ever make it out of these developmental courses and into credit-bearing work.

It’s also a drain on states, schools, colleges and communities. States are paying twice to educate these students and getting a low return on their investment, given the low retention rates of underprepared students. School improvement plans now hold high schools accountable for getting more students to the college- and career-readiness marks, and postsecondary institutions need students to make progress in their degree programs and graduate. Meanwhile, the workforce demands employees with education after high school, and our communities need more people with these credentials to attract business and contribute to the tax base.

States could significantly reduce their remediation rates by implementing readiness courses.

We can do something about this.

States are implementing standards that will close the gap between what students know when they graduate high school and what they need to succeed in college. Meanwhile, millions of high school juniors and seniors need help now, so they don’t miss the mark and land in remedial classes.

Readiness courses — often called transitional courses — target the specific learning skills students need to pass entry-level college courses in math and English. These classes don’t simply re-teach subject matter. Instead, they build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills to help students comprehend complex reading assignments in college and understand the why of math concepts they can apply after high school.

SREB’s Readiness Courses — Literacy Ready and Math Ready — have been adopted in more than 1,000 schools in 12 states. SREB worked with educators to develop them, and more than 2,500 teachers have been trained to teach them. The course materials are free, thanks to grant funding.

And they’re proving effective.

In an analysis of ACT scores in schools in two states, more than half of students increased their scores after the courses, with average increases that would put almost-ready students at the readiness mark. Additional studies are under way in six states. 

Let’s get these students the preparation they need during the high school years.

We know we can make a real difference for students who are almost – but not quite – prepared. Readiness courses can push tens of thousands of them to the ready mark so they have a fair start in college. States could significantly reduce their remediation rates by implementing courses like Literacy Ready and Math Ready.

The readiness gap is bigger than this, of course. But while state standards do the longer-term work of bringing high school preparation closer to college readiness, we can significantly cut the number of students who land in remedial college classes — by focusing on today’s almost-ready juniors and seniors. Let’s get these students the preparation they need during the high school years so they’re on the path to college graduation and careers that grow our communities.