More Nevada high school graduates taking remedial courses in college

LAS VEGAS - A growing number of Nevada high school graduates are taking remedial courses in college, and more than half the money spent by the state on remedial classes is spent on Clark County students.

A report by the University and Community College System of Nevada found about 40.5 percent of high school students who graduated from Nevada high schools statewide between September 2003 and August 2004 took at least one remedial course when they entered the state's colleges and universities. That was up from 36.1 percent in 2001.

Of the $3 million the state spent on remedial classes in the summer and fall semesters, $1.7 million was spent on students from Las Vegas-area high schools, the report said.

Chris Chairsell, associate vice chancellor for the Nevada university system, said the number of students needing remedial education stems from students' choices of high school courses and failure to plan.

"Students in high school probably were not taking the right courses," she said. "There is a lot of self-selection in their curriculum."

Of 7,088 Nevada high school graduates who graduated from the university system's eight institutions, 989 took remedial courses in math and English, 1,004 took only English courses and 851 took only math.

The report cited several other reasons for the rising need for remedial work, including an increase in nonnative speakers, a rising number of students with learning disabilities and a transient student population in Clark County schools.

Chairsell said about 30 percent of recent high school graduates take remedial courses nationally. The courses help develop or regain skills, and are required for those not ready for college-level content.

About one-third of the high school curriculum is composed of electives that give students the opportunity to develop interests in music and sports, but also divert students from taking science and language courses in preparation for college, said State Board of Education member Gary Waters.

There should be a balance between electives and pre-college courses in high school schedules, said Waters, a member of the P-16 Council, a group of educators charged with feeding the pipeline of students from high school to Nevada's colleges. In the past, the state's higher education system worked with high school juniors and seniors to plan for college.

Chairsell said students should start in middle school to plan courses toward college. She recommended high school students take four years of English with an emphasis on composition, and four years of math.

Dawn Neuman, interim associate provost for academic resources at UNLV, said the increased need for remedial courses meant students who in the past wouldn't have gone to college are now attending.


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