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High school grads still falling behind in college

Empower Wisconsin | March 10,  2020 

By Ola Lisowski, MacIver News Service 

MADISON — A new report shows students from 186 Wisconsin high schools were required to take remedial math or English when they entered the University of Wisconsin System as freshmen in the fall of 2018. 

The UW System report tracks the number of students from each Wisconsin high school who were required to take remedial math, English, or both.

A total of 176 high schools graduated classes where 10 percent or more of the students starting at UW needed remedial math instruction. That’s a decrease from last year’s report, when 185 schools graduated classes where 10 percent or more of students needed math remediation.

Students taking remedial classes at the UW system pay full tuition for the courses but receive zero college credit. The classes do not count toward degree completion and students must pass them before moving on to regular coursework. 

Students who take remedial classes in college are less likely to graduate, leaving them with thousands of dollars of debt and no degree. If they do graduate, remedial classes extend their time spent in school and increase their college debt.

Of the 186 schools listed in the report, 172 are public schools and 12 are private schools. Last year, 196 schools made the list, including 182 public schools and 14 private schools. 

Fond Du Lac High School sent the most individual students to the UW System needing remediation. Out of the 189 Fond Du Lac graduates beginning at UW in the fall of 2018, 30 percent needed remedial math classes. About 12 percent of this students also needed English remediation. 

Many schools that produce remedial college students also are schools that received high scores on Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction report card system, a particularly striking trend. More than half of the 44 high schools that received five stars on Wisconsin’s 2019 report cards graduated students who needed remedial classes.

The report follows a 2015 law championed by Rep. John Jagler (R-Watertown), which required the System to publish information on which Wisconsin high schools have the biggest issues in preparing their graduates for college. Schools only appear on the list if six or more of their graduates need remediation at the UW. 

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