New philosophies for developmental education

To approach developmental education, community colleges in the Philadelphia area are trying on new philosophies. Some institutions are phasing out developmental education, while others are using a co-requisite rather than a prerequisite approach. In other words, students who place just below the college-level are placed into the college courses, but with additional support. Another dimension is thinking about how students are evaluated in the first place, which includes a shift from more traditional testing considered by some to be an outdated approach.

Often believed to be a mostly community college issue, plenty of universities must also work with underprepared students and deliver developmental education. Temple University, for example, has anywhere from 5-6% of students in developmental mathematics and up to 20% in developmental English (including ESL students). Temple is also incorporating a co-requisite model in dev ed and making adjustments to how students are evaluated.



Fixing dev ed

The Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) released a report that explores the experiences of underprepared students. Center director Evelyn Waiwaiole writes, “Developmental education is broken—and it is worth fixing,” a noteworthy call for finding ways to improve students’ college readiness. The report findings were based on survey data gathered from more than 70,000 community college students and 4,500 faculty members. Findings suggest that, despite 86% of students believing themselves to be college-ready, about 67% of them test into developmental education and even 40% of students with A- grade point averages in high school placed into developmental courses. The report also appears to back co-requisite models, a suggestion consistent with other recent reports. While this remediation approach has been found to improve students’ completion of college-level coursework, Hunter Boylan cautions that most institutions lack the necessary resources to bring such co-requisite pilots to a larger scale. Boylan suggests that colleges would require significant restructuring and reorganizing as well as cultural change in order to implement such reforms.

The complete list of eight approaches for improving developmental education include redesigning mathematics, trying acceleration or paired developmental courses, using more than one measure for assessing college readiness, and partnering with high schools to offer bridge programs.

Sources:  Campus Technology, InsideHigherEd

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

Amarillo College awarded Title V grant

The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded a Title V grant to Amarillo College for redesigns related to developmental education and academic support services.  The grant, funded in the amount of $2.6 million, will enable the college to redesign and link developmental curricula to workforce pursuits, centralize an advising center, and implement a test-preparation program to promote student success.  Although the grant award is part of the Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program, it is anticipated that the redesigns made possible by the funding will benefit all students considered high-need.

Source:  MyHighPlains

Community college in Oregon looks to streamlining dev ed sequences

A recent study conducted by REL Northwest found that about 73% of those who graduated high school and enrolled in a community college in Oregon took at least one developmental course.  The organization suggested that poor performance on placement tests is one reason for the high percentage of developmental course takers.  To address this issue, the Oregon Community College Association, which oversees 17 institutions, began designing changes for purposes of streamlining dev ed course sequences.

Recommended changes include combining dev ed courses to shorten sequences; new math and writing courses for non-STEM and professional/technical students, respectively; and making advising and orientation required for students in dev ed.  So far, some of these revisions have since been implemented and one college (Central Oregon Community College) has applied for a $2.5 m federal grant to help fund improvements to academic advising.  Other Oregon colleges are redesigning dev ed and using co-requisite models, and the state government recently passed  a bill to require educational entities to oversee placement in community college courses.

Source:  The Bulletin

Preliminary results disappointing in New Jersey

Nearly 85% of students entering New Jersey’s Essex County College required dev ed, placing into the lowest level of math.  In efforts to reverse this figure, the institution incorporated the emporium model, or adaptive learning—an approach incorporating technology to deliver course material.  At Essex, $1.2m from the Gates Foundation was used to develop two math labs where ALEKS, McGraw-Hill‘s adaptive math learning system, would be used.  The new approach also incorporated learning communities wherein students met twice a week to discuss useful learning strategies.  Despite the money and effort expended on this adaptive learning, preliminary results have not been promising.  So far, about 1,000 students have taken adaptive math courses with only 35% of students passing compared to 50% in traditional developmental math.  Despite the disappointing results, the college intends to stay the course to study what changes can and should be made.

Source:  Inside Higher Ed

Community colleges in Tennessee nix traditional dev ed

Across community colleges in Tennessee, more than 70% of incoming students require developmental education; however, only 46.5% complete remediation and fewer (12.6%) graduate within three years’ time. To address low graduation rates, the state has eliminated traditional remediation and implemented a co-requisite model.  Students considered underprepared will start with introductory courses in math and English, and a learning support course to help students strengthen their academic skills.

Past pilots of the co-requisite approach in Tennessee have yielded positive results.  Underprepared students passed courses in statistics, quantitative reasoning, and English more frequently than in the traditional model at Austin Peay State University and nine other community colleges. Despite these results, concerns over using this approach linger.  Director of the National Center for Developmental Education, Dr. Hunter Boylan, voiced concerns that it is unclear whether the learning support class will help the most underprepared or first-generation college students, and further cautioned the use of a seemingly one-size-fits-all model, stating that sustaining such a system will be no easy task.

Sources:  Complete College America, PBS NewsHour

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

West Virginia reforms found to be successful

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia recently authored a guest column in the Logan Banner.  In the piece, Governor Tomblin details dev ed reforms undertaken by the West Virginia Community and Technical College System to meet the growing projected need for a credentialed workforce.  A million-dollar grant from Complete College America enabled reforms via co-requisite courses in two-year colleges across the state. Prior to implementation of the co-requisite model, only 14% of students passed college-level math within two years of taking developmental math.  Under the new model, however, 62% of students now complete college-level math within one semester.

Source: Logan Banner

States look to legislation for repairing dev ed

The remediation system for educating students deemed underprepared for the college-level is far from perfect.  Amid controversy over low success rates and high costs, many states are looking to legislative policy to repair developmental education.  Minnesota is considering whether remedial classes should be optional, Nevada and Montana are considering co-requisite models, and other states, including Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, and Florida have already passed some reform.

Source: Inside Higher Ed