New reports detail strategies used in developmental education in Tennessee and Connecticut

The American Council on Education’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy recently released two reports examining innovative strategies in higher education in Tennessee and Connecticut.  In Tennessee, Developmental Studies Redesign and Course Revitalization Redesign were pursued between 2005-2010 and 2010-2015, respectively.  In order to accomplish each, system-level changes were implemented to redesign developmental education and gateway courses across the state.  State legislation, specifically the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010, also played a role.  Redesign efforts led the Tennessee Board of Regents to implement a co-requisite model that would bring together developmental and college-level.

When the State of Connecticut passed Public Act 12-40, educational institutions would have to revise existing assessment and placement practices for developmental education.  Additionally, institutions would be limited to one semester for developmental coursework and had to implement a three-level model that provided students with integrated support for college-level courses, intensive developmental courses in one semester, and tuition-free transitional programs that were non-credit.  The ACE report includes data gathered through interviews with several constituent groups at the state legislative and higher education levels, and findings serve as recommendations for improving communication between the legislature and higher education community and more.

Sources: InsideHigherEd, ACE on Tennessee, ACE on Connecticut


Positive results seen after years of dev ed and placement reform in Virginia

Several years ago, institutions within the Virginia Community College System implemented changes to placement testing and dev ed.  In 2012 and 2013, new placement exams in math and English, respectively, were implemented.  The new exams were coupled with redesigned dev ed math and English courses.  Math courses were shortened to four-week sessions and an English course for those on-the-bubble incorporated a co-requisite approach.  Research has since indicated that fewer students are referred to dev ed and students considered college-ready in math within a year increased from 5% to 18%.

Source:  The Washington Post

University looks beyond test scores for admissions

Recent NPR and Washington Post articles report that George Washington University will no longer require the SAT or ACT for applicants. GWU, one of the top private universities in the country, expects the move to increase the diversity among its applicants.

Though potentially controversial, viewing entrance exams as optional is not new. In fact, a study published in February 2014 examined optional standardized testing policies and found that these policies offer students greater access to higher education.  This finding was especially true among first-generation college students.  A PBS article and FairTest also report that nearly 850 higher education institutions consider SAT and ACT optional; however, some of these institutions use entrance exam scores for academic advising or placement, and others require the tests for particular programs of study.

Sources: NPR, Washington Post

Maryland college considers high school performance in placement

In some Maryland colleges, students referred to dev ed are often required to complete course sequences before moving on to the college-level.  Montgomery College is such an institution, requiring students to complete as many as three semesters of dev ed.  In the county, nearly 60% of students need remedial math, 30% need remedial English, and 26% need remedial reading.  Dev ed courses are not tuition free and completed course hours do not count toward traditional degree or certificate programs.  To reduce the burden of lengthy course sequences, Montgomery College is approaching placement a little differently.  Rather than rely upon standardized test results, the college also uses students’ high school grades to determine whether remediation is required.  The move comes on the heels of a report issued by the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight that assessed students progression through and out of dev ed.

Source: Washington Post

Article questions harms on dev ed students

Are remedial courses actually hurting community college students?

That is the question asked in a Washington Post article by the same name. The article cites research by former Assistant Director, Katherine L. Hughes, and current Senior Research Associate, Judith Scott-Clayton of the Community College Research Center. In the 2011 article, the role of assessments in community colleges were explored—most notably the COMPASS and ACCUPLACER placement exams.  Study findings indicated that while the exams were reasonably valid in predicting students’ performance in developmental math, the same could not be said for reading or writing courses.  The authors suggested that community colleges seek alternative approaches to assessment and placement, which could translate into improvements in student outcomes.  Some colleges in California, Maryland, and Washington have done just that by giving high school juniors the opportunity to prepare early for placement tests.

Source: Washington Post