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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (December 17, 1999 – Marshall Islands Journal)---Eight of every ten high school graduates who enter the College of Marshall Islands have English and math ability at the seventh grade level or below, according to CMI test results from 1993 to 1997.

One third of the students test at a second-to-fourth grade level, while the balance is in the fourth-to-seventh grade level.

This requires the College to devote a major portion of its resources to remedial education in an effort to improve the academic ability of students so they can accomplish college-level work, said Carl Hacker, CMI’s Director of Administration.

But the problem of the low academic ability of incoming freshmen is getting worse, not better, according to Hacket. CMI testing of incoming students at the beginning of the current semester showed that 80 percent of the students tested at level one, a second-to-fourth grade level of understanding.

"It’s never been like this before," Hacker said of this year’s test scores.

CMI Kwajalein Campus director Greg Sammer said the low academic ability of the majority of students poses a serious dilemma for the college.

"If you put a kid in a college course, but he fails, who does that help?" he asked. "But CMI can’t ‘dummy-down’ its courses. We must teach college level courses. It’s a conflict for the teachers because some of the students in their classes can do it, but others are not prepared for college material and it pulls the class down."

To respond to the increasing need for remedial education at the college level, CMI is now proposing a new entry-level enrichment program that it hopes to teach using Marshall Islands High School facilities in the coming year.

The aim is to provide two semesters of courses to students who test at the lowest levels in order to get these students ready for the currently functioning remedial program that is focused at raising students with a mid-elementary level of understanding to the college level.

The challenge for the college, said Hacker, is how to respond to a two-stage remedial need: getting students who are borderline college-level prepared for college material, while also training students who are functionally illiterate to gain basic English and math ability so that they can enter the next level of remedial.

For many of these students who come to the college functionally illiterate, it is "impossible to move them from a level one remedial program to the degree program in just one and a half years," Hacker said. "We’re discussing with the Ministry of Education the proposal for the enrichment program. There’s definitely the need for the program."

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail:  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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