From the Field

Research Notes: The Problem With Test-Based Remediation

Previous research indicates that providing students with remedial coursework can boost their test scores and long-run outcomes like graduation rates. However, remediation can also carry negative consequences, such as segregating students with schools by race and socioeconomic status.

In a recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers David N. Figlio from the University of Rochester and Umut Özek from RAND Corporation study remediation based on test scores and how it affected students’ access to educational resources, opportunities, and outcomes.

The researchers examined student outcomes in 12 county-level school districts in Florida from the 2002-03 school year to 2010-11. These counties followed Florida policies to place middle school students in remedial classes if they scored below a proficiency cutoff for a given subject.

Figlio and Özek found mixed results for the remediation policy. Students flagged for remediation had more access to classroom resources, but they were more likely to be tracked into lower-performing classes for all subjects and less likely to take advanced courses. These harmful effects were especially strong for Black students, relative to students of other races.

It is important for policymakers to find ways to provide remedial resources to students without placing students into tracks across all subjects and without increasing segregation within schools. The study found that some Florida school districts are already achieving this successful implementation.