Consider the sheer magnitude of California's problem:
Nearly 670,000 California college students were enrolled in basic English and math courses last year, with additional students in remedial reading courses and English-as-a-second-language classes. It's estimated that far more students need remedial work but don't enroll, and half the remedial and second-language students leave school after their first year.
One in 10 students at the lowest remedial levels -- community colleges sometimes have up to five courses below the lowest college-level course -- reaches a college-level course in that subject. The numbers are worse for black and Latino students.
Nearly three-quarters of the students who take placement tests are directed to remedial math courses, compared with 9 percent being placed in college-level courses.