College Remediation Goes Back to High School: Evidence from a Statewide Program in Tennessee

50 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2019 Last revised: 29 May 2022

See all articles by Thomas J. Kane

Thomas J. Kane

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Public Policy & Social Research; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Angela Boatman

Vanderbilt University

Whitney Kozakowski

Harvard University - Harvard Graduate School of Education

Christopher Joseph Bennett

Vanderbilt University

Rachel Hitch

Harvard University

Dana Weisenfeld

Harvard University - Center for Education Policy Research

Date Written: August 2019

Abstract

Many U.S. students arrive on college campus lacking the skills expected for college-level work. As state leaders seek to increase postsecondary enrollment and completion, public colleges have sought to lessen the delays created by remedial course requirements. Tennessee has taken a novel approach by allowing students to complete their remediation requirements in high school. Using both a difference-in-differences and a regression discontinuity design, we evaluate the program’s impact on college enrollment and credit accumulation, finding that the program boosted enrollment in college-level math during the first year of college and allowed students to earn a modest 4.5 additional college credits by their second year. We also report the first causal evidence on remediation's impact on students' math skills, finding that the program did not improve students’ math achievement, nor boost students’ chances of passing college math. Our findings cast doubt on the effectiveness of the current model of remediation—whether in high school or college—in improving students’ math skills. They also suggest that the time cost of remediation—whether pre-requisite or co-requisite remediation—is not the primary barrier causing low degree completion for students with weak math preparation.

Suggested Citation

Kane, Thomas J. and Boatman, Angela and Kozakowski, Whitney and Bennett, Christopher Joseph and Hitch, Rachel and Weisenfeld, Dana, College Remediation Goes Back to High School: Evidence from a Statewide Program in Tennessee (August 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w26133, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3432166

Thomas J. Kane (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Public Policy & Social Research ( email )

Box 951656
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
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Angela Boatman

Vanderbilt University ( email )

230 Appleton Place
PMB414
Nashville, TN 37203
United States

Whitney Kozakowski

Harvard University - Harvard Graduate School of Education ( email )

6 Appian Way
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Christopher Joseph Bennett

Vanderbilt University ( email )

2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37240
United States

Rachel Hitch

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Dana Weisenfeld

Harvard University - Center for Education Policy Research ( email )

50 Church Street, 4th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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