CAPR Link Roundup: Bolstering Developmental Education Reform With Additional Supports

Student and professor walk while talking

Developmental education reform is inextricably intertwined with student success. But it can’t solve the problems students face on its own. Several recent research publications look at how reforms to the structure of developmental education combine with other reforms and supports to make a bigger difference for students. Check out the resources below to learn more about developmental education and transfer, developmental education and success coaching, and ESL reforms in California, along with several reports on corequisite courses.

Updated Numbers on the Demographics of Developmental Education

New America analyzed recently released data from the National Center for Education Statistics on which students are placed in developmental education. The survey from the 2019-20 academic year includes detailed breakdowns by race, age, Pell status, and more. While the number of community college students who ever took a remedial course decreased from 2016 to 2020, Black, Hispanic, and Pacific Islander students continued to be overrepresented.

Longer Term Impacts From Florida Reforms

A recent journal article from the team at the Center for Postsecondary Success at Florida State University looks at whether the momentum students gain from reformed developmental education in Florida leads to longer term success. They found little difference between pre- and post-policy cohorts in either the shorter term outcomes of persistence and credit accumulation or the longer term outcomes of transfer and credential attainment. But the reform still provided benefits by accelerating student progress to college-level courses and reducing the costs to both students and institutions.

Developmental Education and Transfer

Strong Start to Finish recently released a brief on the connection between developmental education and transfer developed by the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina. The researchers found that transfer supports were rarely embedded in developmental courses at two-year colleges and that institutional factors such as limited staffing and resources impacted how much consideration was afforded to transfer in developmental courses.

Combining Corequisites and Placement Reform

An article by researchers from the University of California, Irvine, examines developmental education reform at a college that replaced its writing placement test with an online questionnaire and, at the same time, replaced prerequisite developmental writing courses with a corequisite composition support course. The goal of the study was to determine whether students in need of writing support enrolled in the corequisite course and whether the alternative placement method had a positive effect on student success. The study found that more students were allowed into college-level courses under the new placement procedure and that students who enrolled in both the corequisite support course and college-level composition had similar levels of writing proficiency and similarly high pass rates as those who enrolled in college-level composition alone.

Corequisite Courses and Embedded Success Coaching

In 2022, two Tennessee colleges launched the Tennessee Coaching Project, which adds additional supports for underprepared students so that more of them succeed in their first year of college. Through the program, students who are assigned to a corequisite course in at least one subject are connected with success coaches to help them navigate coursework, connect with campus resources, and explore career options. An overview of the project’s first year by the College System of Tennessee suggests that success coaching resulted in better fall-to-spring persistence rates and higher pass rates in math courses.

The Cost-Benefit of Corequisite English

An article by researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas, Rand Corporation, the American Institutes for Research, and elsewhere that was released by Brown University details a cost-benefit analysis of corequisite courses across five Texas community colleges that participated in a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of three approaches to English corequisite remediation. Corequisites were less expensive than prerequisite pathways at two colleges and more expensive at three colleges, with the cost depending on the model implemented. Since they help more students pass college-level English, the study concludes that corequisites are “most likely the preferred policy from a societal point of view.” Students prefer corequisite courses because they cost less in tuition and have higher success rates.

The Importance of Faculty and Instructional Practices on Success in Math

A study from Education Equity Solutions looked at the role of faculty and instructional practices in first-college-level math courses to try to understand their role in student success. The authors analyzed data on almost 23,000 students in California and concluded that faculty are the most important factor in student success in their first college math course and that instructional practices can help reduce racial disparities in outcomes. The researchers also identified practices that appeared to disproportionately benefit Latino/a and Black students and may lead to more equitable course outcomes, including fostering a sense of belonging, implementing transparent and growth-oriented grading practices like providing opportunities to practice before exams, and destigmatizing help-seeking.

College-Level Prerequisites to Calculus for Business Students

A report by the California Community Colleges and the RP Group focuses on students pursuing a business administration degree within the California Community College system and examines whether college-level math prerequisites help them complete the business calculus requirement for their degree. The study looked at whether the use of these prerequisites by colleges meets the standard laid out by California’s developmental education reform laws: that students are highly unlikely to succeed without them. The researchers found that students at the 44 colleges that require a prerequisite for business calculus were more likely to pass calculus when they skipped the prerequisite and were placed directly into the calculus course. They also concluded that students with lower levels of math preparation would benefit from corequisite support.