**Before students set foot in a classroom, most colleges require them to take a placement test to determine if they are eligible for college-level math and English courses. If they aren’t, they are placed into developmental education courses to strengthen their skills.**

**What do we know about who developmental education students are and what happens to them?**

## The Students in Developmental Education

The majority of students at community colleges take developmental courses, as do a large percentage of students at four-year colleges. Black, Hispanic, and low-income students are disproportionately likely to be assigned to developmental education.

## Community Colleges

60%of students who began in 2013–14 took one or more remedial courses by 2016.

25%took a remedial course in their first year in 2015–16.

## Public Four-Year Colleges

32%of students who began in 2013–14 took one or more remedial courses by 2016.

## Percentage of Students Taking Remedial Courses at Community Colleges

Black students

Hispanic students

White students

Lowest income quartile

Highest income quartile

## Percentage of Students Taking Remedial Courses at Public Four-Year Colleges

Black students

Hispanic students

White students

Lowest income quartile

Highest income quartile

SOURCE: Chen (2016); among students who first enrolled in 2003–04, through 2009.

## The Road to the Developmental Classroom

Most community colleges administer placement tests to determine if students need developmental education, and many rely on placement test scores as the sole measure of college readiness, despite evidence that they result in too many students being placed in dev ed. More colleges are using multiple measures, including high school GPA, in an effort to improve placement decisions.

99% of public two-year colleges surveyed in 2016 used math placement tests.

98% of public two-year colleges used reading and writing placement tests.

94% of public four-year colleges used standardized tests for placement in math.

91% of public four-year colleges used standardized tests for reading and writing placement.

SOURCE: Rutschow et al. (2019)

CAPR’s study of multiple measures placement in seven community colleges in the State University of New York (SUNY) system found that students placed using multiple measures were 7 percentage points more likely to be placed into college-level math and 34 percentage points more likely to be placed into college-level English than their peers evaluated using placement tests alone. The students placed using multiple measures completed college-level courses at the same or better rates.

A study of one statewide community college system found that 33 percent of entering students were severely misplaced by ACCUPLACER—either “overplaced” in college-level courses or “underplaced” in remedial courses when they could have earned a B or better in a college-level course. Using students’ high school GPA instead of placement testing to make placement decisions was predicted to cut severe placement error rates in half (to 17 percent).

57% of public two-year colleges surveyed in 2016 used multiple measures for math placement, up from 27% in 2011.

51% of public two-year colleges used multiple measures for reading and writing placement, up from 19% in 2011 for reading placement alone.

SOURCE: Rutschow et al. (2019)

## Traditional Remediation: What Happens to Students?

Among the students assigned to developmental education, many don’t even enroll. And even when they do, many don’t finish their assigned developmental course sequence—or don’t complete their first college-level course or go on to graduation. One recent analysis found that developmental education is most helpful for students with the lowest levels of preparation.

## Community Colleges

One recent study using nationally representative data reported that 49 percent of developmental education students who started in 2003–04 completed all the developmental courses they attempted, 35 percent completed some courses, and 16 percent completed none.

Another study looking at community colleges in seven states found that 33 percent of students referred to developmental math and 46 percent of students referred to developmental reading went on to complete the entire developmental sequence. Completion rates differed based on students’ initial placement level: 17 percent of students referred to the lowest level of developmental math completed the sequence, versus 45 percent of those referred to the highest level.

## Public Four-Year Colleges

The same national study cited above found that 59 percent of students assigned to developmental education completed all their courses, 25 percent completed some, and 15 percent completed none.

#### How many students referred to developmental education go on to complete entry-level college courses?

One multistate study found that 20 percent of community college students referred to developmental math and 37 percent of students referred to developmental reading who made it through the courses went on to pass the relevant entry-level or “gatekeeper” college course. An additional 12 percent of those referred to developmental math and an additional 32 percent of those referred to developmental reading skipped the developmental courses but still passed a gatekeeper course.

Findings from a nationally representative study suggest that students who complete their developmental courses are more likely than partial completers or noncompleters to stay in college and earn a bachelor’s degree—but the results vary depending on students’ level of academic preparation. Dev ed helps weakly prepared students on several indicators. But moderately or strongly prepared community college students who complete some of their developmental courses are worse off than similar students who take no remedial courses in terms of college-level credits earned, transfer to a four-year college, and bachelor’s degree attainment. Other studies have found little or no positive effect from enrolling in developmental courses.

Bachelor’s

Associate

Certificate

Any Award

## Started at a Community College

**No Remedial Courses**

**Any Remedial Courses**

## Started at a Public Four-Year College

**No Remedial Courses**

**Any Remedial Courses**

## Started at a Private Nonprofit Four-Year College

**No Remedial Courses**

**Any Remedial Courses**

*SOURCE: BPS:2012 & PETS via NCES QuickStats*

## Reformed Remediation: What Happens to Students?

In reaction to everything research has told us about traditional developmental education, colleges, systems, and states are experimenting with ways to shorten the time students spend in dev ed and tailor developmental coursework to their program of study. The reforms include corequisite remediation, math pathways, modularization of math courses, compressed courses, and the use of multiple measures for placement. Evidence is building that some of these reforms improve student outcomes.

## Prevalence of Developmental Education Instructional Methods Among Public Two-Year Colleges

**Math**

**Reading and Writing**

Values represent percentages among two-year public colleges that reported offering developmental courses. Colleges were counted as using an instructional method if they used it in more than two course sections. Categories are not mutually exclusive.

**Multiple math pathways** are sets of linked courses designed to give students math skills relevant to their degree requirements and program of study. **Self-paced courses** allow students to work through course content independently. In the **flipped classroom** model, students are exposed to content outside of class, often through online materials, while most in-class time is devoted to activities, projects, and discussions. **Corequisite** courses involve students taking a college-level course concurrently with a developmental course that serves as a learning support. **Integrated reading and writing** courses are English courses in which reading and writing skills are taught together.

*SOURCE: Rutschow and Mayer (2018)*

A CAPR study of Dana Center Mathematics Pathways (DCMP) at four community colleges in Texas found that, after three semesters, students assigned to DCMP were 8 percentage points more likely to pass a developmental math course and almost 24 percentage points more likely to complete their developmental math sequence than students assigned to standard developmental math. DCMP students were also more likely to pass college-level math by the end of the study period.

## Passed Developmental Math

59% of students assigned to DCMP

51% of students assigned to standard developmental math

## Completed Developmental Math Sequence

57% of students assigned to DCMP

34% of students assigned to standard developmental math

## Passed College-Level Math

25% of students assigned to DCMP

19% of students assigned to standard developmental math

Corequisite remediation, in which students take college-level math or English courses coupled with a parallel developmental class or other academic supports, allows more students to pass the college-level course, and to do it faster.

An experimental evaluation of corequisite English in five Texas community colleges found that being assigned to corequisite remediation instead of a traditional semester-long dev ed course increased the probability of passing Composition I and later English courses. Coreq students were:

21.4 percentage points more likely to pass Composition I within one year

16.3 percentage points more likely to pass Composition I within two years

6.4 percentage points more likely to complete Composition II within two years

A quasi-experimental study of corequisite remediation in the 13 Tennessee community colleges found that students on the margin of the college readiness threshold who were placed into corequisite remediation were more likely to pass gateway math and English than students placed in prerequisite remediation. They were:

15 percentage points more likely to pass gateway math in one year

13 percentage points more likely to pass gateway English in one year

Multiple measures placement systems may combine information on test scores, high school GPA, highest course passed in the subject, and other measures to determine whether students are ready for college courses. CAPR’s random assignment study of multiple measures placement in seven State University of New York community colleges found that many more students are assigned to college-level courses. Gains in completion of college-level math faded, but in English the effects were much larger and lasted through at least three terms.

Students Placed Using Multiple Measures

Students Placed Using Standardized Tests

## College-Level Math

**Placement**

**Completion**

## College-Level English

**Placement**

**Completion**

The study showed much more substantial effects for students whose placements changed with the new placement methods. Students allowed to take college-level courses were much better off.

## Students Bumped Up Into College-Level Courses

8–10 percentage points more likely to complete a college-level math or English course within three semesters than students who stayed in developmental courses

## Students Bumped Down Into Developmental Courses

8–10 percentage points less likely to complete a college-level math or English course within three semesters than students who stayed in college-level courses