CAPR Survey Shows Widespread Adoption of Developmental Education Reforms

By Vivianna Plancarte, Dan Cullinan, and Sophie Litschwartz

Students raising hands in class

This is the second post in a series on multiple measures in a corequisite remediation context. The first post explains the current research landscape of multiple measures and corequisite remediation and introduces a new CAPR study.

As part of a new project to study colleges that use both multiple measures assessment (MMA) and corequisite support courses, CAPR conducted a short nationally representative survey to identify eligible colleges for the study and capture how the landscape of assessment and developmental course offerings has changed in recent years.

The survey provides the first update on the reach of these major developmental education reforms since a 2016 CAPR survey of community colleges about their developmental education practices. For details on how the 2023 survey differs from the 2016 survey, see a CAPR brief published in late 2023 on the new CAPR project and the 2023 survey results.

Given the growth in both MMA and corequisite courses, CAPR is conducting new research on the trade-offs between placing students directly in college-level coursework with and without additional corequisite support and on whether using MMA to place students in a corequisite developmental structure is better than status quo placement systems. In an MMA system, colleges use alternative measures such as high school transcripts in addition to or instead of standardized tests to assess students’ need for developmental support.

The Surveys: Assessing the Use of Multiple Measures Assessment and Corequisite Remediation

To field the 2023 survey, CAPR randomly selected 100 community colleges from a list of all 829 public two-year degree-granting community colleges in the United States. The selected colleges represented various regions of the country and included urban, suburban, and rural colleges, as shown below. The survey revealed both an increased use of high school performance measures in placement systems and an increased use of corequisite development courses.

100 Randomly Selected Community Colleges in the Survey

Increased Use of High School Performance Measures in Placement Systems

In the course of assisting colleges around the country to evaluate and expand MMA efforts, the CAPR team had noted many changes in developmental education policies. It appeared that colleges had responded to promising research related to MMA and the need to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic by incorporating high school performance into their placement systems. In addition, more colleges seemed to have turned to a corequisite model to try and address the problems with prerequisite remediation.

The 2023 survey confirms these anecdotal observations. More colleges are incorporating high school performance measures into their placement systems. In 2016, 37% of two-year public colleges used indicators of high school performance in their placement systems in English, and 41% did so in math. In 2023, those numbers nearly doubled, with 73% of two-year public colleges using indicators of high school performance in their placement systems (shown below).

Percentage of Community Colleges Using Indicators of High School Performance for Placement

Increased Use of Corequisite Development Courses

There has also been growth in the number of colleges placing students in corequisite developmental courses, especially in math. In 2016, 56% of two-year public colleges offered corequisite developmental courses in English, and 28% offered those courses in math. In the 2023 survey, 78% of two-year public colleges offered corequisite developmental courses in English, and 77% offered corequisite courses in math (shown below). These new figures represent a 22-percentage-point increase in the number of colleges offering corequisite remediation in English and a 49-percentage-point increase in the number of colleges offering it in math.

Percentage of Community Colleges Offering Corequisite Developmental Courses

In the second and main phase of the project, CAPR will be fielding a randomized controlled trial at multiple colleges. A number of colleges across the country have already been recruited to participate in the study. This research study will provide high-quality estimates of the effect MMA has on students’ academic outcomes, as well as findings about college-level implementation of MMA, students’ experiences, and MMA’s costs. Ultimately, this study aims to provide colleges with valuable information to inform both corequisite remediation and corequisite placement design and to answer important questions arising in the field about how to use multiple measures assessment to place students in the courses that best suit them. Results from the study are expected in late 2025.

Vivianna Plancarte is a research assistant, Dan Cullinan is a senior associate, and Sophie Litschwartz is a research associate at MDRC.