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Remedial reading and college courses: Learning to read or reading to learn? A study of practices in a community college in New England

Lauren Doninger, Johnson & Wales University


Community colleges across the U.S. struggle to define policies that allow them to maintain balance between the missions of open-access and academic integrity (Berger, 1997). While developmental education has long been a part of American higher education (Casazza, 1999), the surge in numbers of underprepared students combined with the depth of academic deficiencies have created challenges for community college leaders (McCabe, 2000). Researchers have made recommendations based on data culled from years of research (Kozeracki, 2005). Adelman (1998) reported that reading deficiencies present a dire risk for academic failure. Many existing policies for screening and sequencing courses for under-prepared students are ineffective due to multiple loopholes (Jenkins & Boswell, 2002). Consequently, students with reading deficiencies often take college-level courses prior to, or concurrent with, remediation. This research was conducted at a mid-sized, urban, community college in New England; the N = 1163 subjects were new students in fall 2006. Non-identifying transcript data were supplied by the college. The independent variables were score on the ACCUPLACER™ (College Board, 2006) reading test and participation in remediation. The dependent variable was achievement in college-level courses. There were n = 10 classes selected for analysis. ANOVA, correlation, and t-tests (Huck, 2004) were performed. The qualitative research illuminated the quantitative findings and included archival review, document analysis, and responsive interviews (Rubin & Rubin, 2005) with N = 3 subjects. The investigation found that the study site’s practices were inconsistent with policies. In fall 2006 there were n = 575 who tested into remedial reading but there were only n = 173 students who took the remedial course. The study revealed that under-prepared students were most likely to enroll in PSY111 or CSC101 without remediating and consequently had lower achievement than other students. The qualitative investigation revealed that remedial policies and practices were driven by pragmatic (e.g., course enrollment), not academic concerns. The data revealed that students had open-access at the cost of academic standards. Potential actions stemming from this research include follow-up research and policy and practice revisions at the study site.

Subject Area

Community college education|Literacy|Reading instruction|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Doninger, Lauren, "Remedial reading and college courses: Learning to read or reading to learn? A study of practices in a community college in New England" (2009). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3350023.