PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

StateImpact Florida Remedial Education Series: 13th Grade Part 1B

When Shakira Lockett got to Miami Dade College fresh out of Coral Gables High School ... she had to take remedial courses in reading writing and math.

If you fail a class twice, tuition more than doubles. That's what happened to Shakira after she failed reading two times.
Her mom, Sharayne Milton -- a school bus driver for the Miami-Dade school district -- says she struggled to help with tuition.

"We scraped up the money from everybody, scrapped up the money from everybody. Her Godmother help. Godfather. Being that she's such a respectable kid, I could always go to somebody for help", said Milton. " I just hope she can make it in life, better than her mom driving a school bus. Laughs.

The Florida College System used to require more remedial classes at different levels. But in an attempt to help students move through the system faster and cheaper it reduced the requirements. And the state now offers remedial education to high school seniors -- hoping they won't need it to pay for the same classes in college.

Mathew Ladner is with the Foundation for Excellence in Education - a Florida based advocacy group. He points out that in 2011 Florida high schools graduated more students - and more students of color - than ever before. So, he says, the need for more remediation isn't surprising.

"A lot of those students in Florida higher education institutions today would have dropped out of high school 15 years ago, right? So this is sort of a process on the way to success", Ladner said.

As is turns out, increasing the number of high school graduates is not the same thing as graduating more students who are ready for college.

Florida's graduation rates are still among the lowest in the country. And critics say public schools should do a better job preparing students for college work.

High school teacher Vallet Tucker says she's constantly surprised that even her honors students are not at the level they should be.

"Oh all the time. All the time! I look at my students and say gosh, I wish we could read this piece or this novel, but they're not there yet," Tucker said. "They don't know the meaning of that word. The vocabulary is not where it should be, the stamina for reading."

She teaches 10th grade English at Miami Northwestern. But she says her students read at a 7th grade level. Again, those are honors students.

Remedial education is what allows state and community colleges to give everyone the chance to get a college education. The alternative would mean many more students -- even honors students -- can't go.

Shakira Lockett remembers her first professor challenging the class to make it to the finish line. Many of the students in her first remedial class moved on to the second remedial class together. On the day she got her diploma, that professor was on the stage.

"She looks at me and says, 'how many people are you walking with that you know?' And none of my friends were behind me. None of the people that I knew. It was just me", remembered Lockett. "And I felt really, really accomplished. I felt really happy. I was really proud of myself. And she gave me a hug and said, 'good job.'"

Students who take remedial classes are less likely to graduate than their peers who can work toward their degrees right away. That's one of the down falls of remedial education.