The right to fail and outsourcing developmental studies both offer
more problems than a coherent, consistent and co-ordinated developmental
program.  Allowing students into classes who do not have the skills to pass
that class is demeaning to the student, unethical on the part of the
administration, and frustrating to the instructor and other students in
that class.

        It is demeaning because we know that student self-esteem is
one component to college success.  Allowing a student into a
class is almost like saying "you have the ability to benefit from this
class if you apply the skills which you bring to it."  Developmental level
students, in general, do not bring the necessary skills.  And the "ability
to benefit" is just nor there.  Confidence, motivation, self-esteem are
thrown out the window.

        Allowing underprepared students into inappropriate classes is
unethical on the part of the administration because it disavows any
responsibility for ensuring a quality education for all students enrolled
in classes.  Taking the money from underprepared students to shore up
sagging budgets because of low enrollment, and then knowingly allowing
students to take courses they cannot pass, is the basest form of "business

        Allowing underprepard students into main stream courses is
frustrating to instructors and prepared students because so much time must
be taken to try to keep the underprepared student up to level.  Broad
discussions are sometimes waived to rehash materials all but the
underprepared students grasped.  I worked at one college that pressured
instructors to maintain a high pass-rate which meant passing students who
really did not master the material.  This is unfair to the students who
did the work and really passed, as well as to the student who is passed
for a "feel good" because it raises expectations that will probably not
come to fruition.

        Outsourcing developmental programs puts the onus of that
particular level of education or reeducation squarely on the shoulders of
the poor.  Now, financial aid is available to underprepard students.  In
most instances, up to thirty credits of developmental level courses are
covered by financial aid.  What kind of financial aid will be available in
these commercial enterprises?  And at what interest rates?  Outsourcing,
in this light, makes education an elite priviledge which cannot be
accepted in a democratic society.

        The "teach to the test" mentality of administrators who advocate
outsourcing and of the commercial "skills banks" does not meet the broad
referential requirements most developmental students have.  It is not that
they have difficulty reading, but they have difficulty drawing analogies,
or critically evaluating information because they do not have the
referents needed to do so.  The referents must come from instruction that
presents the information and makes connections across curricular boundries.
The instructor must draw analogies first, and then allow the students to do
so.  There must be a redundant and recursive balance of information so
that the foundation is in place and the students are ready to tackle more
difficult work.  Teaching to a test dumps information in  -- a "garbage
in, garbage out" framework that does not build the foundation or establish
the referents necessary to succeed at the collge level.

Jim Valkenburg    [log in to unmask]
Delta College
University Center, MI 48710-0002
(517) 686-9034  FAX (517) 686-8736