#4 Dissertation about Predictive Factors associated with Need for Remediation

Whiton, John C. Predictive Factors Associated with Newly Graduated High-School Students’ Enrollment in a Remedial Course at a Community College.  Diss. Liberty University, 2015.  Ann Arbor, 2016. 10027104. Web. 14Mar. 2016.

Whiton administered a questionnaire at a community college in Maryland. His research question was which factors best predicted student need for remediation. His research focused on recent high-school graduates and analyzed factors such as age, gender, race, high-school GPA and social and cultural capital. The questionnaire was an already established survey.

The survey itself was administered as a convenience sampling. He needed at least 150 survey responses from students who were enrolled in remedial classes (reading, writing, math) and 150 from students who were enrolled in credit-bearing courses.

Many of the questions asked were coded into binary and a logistic regression analysis was used for data analysis. The surveys were analyzed based on student response to the question of whether or not they were enrolled in a remedial course.

Students were surveyed in a variety of class types (math, English, performing arts, etc.) as convenience allowed. The researcher needed to garner instructor permission to administer the survey in class. The survey took 10 minutes of class-time, and students placed their completed surveys into an envelope that was then placed with other enveloped-surveys into a larger envelope. Students were eligible for a drawing for a $200 gift card if they filled out a separate sheet with their contact information. Surveys were kept anonymous, and data was entered into an Excel spreadsheet that was coded in binary terms whenever possible.

In the methodology section, Whiton describes how he eliminated one question category as all but 3% answered in the affirmative. For other questions, he regrouped some of the answers. For instance, in one question about how often parents spoke to the student about college, two answers were combined into a category: “never/sometimes” were grouped as one while “often” was used as the reference group. Whiton describes other instances of this regrouping, most notably when parental income was grouped at below $35,000, $35,001-$50,000, and above $50,000.

His findings were that students were 73% less likely to enter a remedial course if they had taken math above Algebra 2, 68.9% less likely if the annual family income was above $50,000, and 53.5% less likely if students discuss community, national, and world events with parents/guardians often.


As a composition researcher, I am troubled by the focus on math. Whiton provides a literature review for why he focuses on the highest level of math taken in high school as a predictive quality, but he also quotes the Scott-Clayton piece I referred to in an earlier blog post as showing that math placement exams are traditionally more reliable for placement than the English placement tests. If anything, he has only proven that the math scores are predictive of who will place into remedial math or not based on prior math experience.

The surveys were given in a variety of courses, so students could have been in a credit-bearing course such as Intro to Fine Arts but also co-enrolled in a remedial course. Additionally, the students who responded “yes” to being enrolled in a remedial course could have been enrolled strictly in math or in an English course or in a total of three remedial courses. As some of the questions focus on composition skills such as language, it seems like a missed opportunity to not group the students by which courses they were enrolled in.


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