Gaining Ground: Findings from the Dana Center Mathematics Pathways Impact Study
By Elizabeth Zachry Rutschow, Susan Sepanik, Victoria Deitch, Julia Raufman, Dominique Dukes, and Adnan Moussa | November 2019
Many college students are required to take at least one developmental math course, but as many as half of them fail to complete their developmental math requirements and never matriculate into college-level courses. To address this issue, the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin created the Dana Center Mathematics Pathways (DCMP) to help colleges implement math pathways aligned with students’ programs of study in both developmental and college-level courses, accelerate students’ progress to and through college-level math, develop strategies to support students as learners, and integrate evidence-based practices in instruction. The Dana Center also created curricula the colleges used for three course pathways (focused on statistical reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and algebra/calculus).
This study looks at how four Texas community colleges implemented DCMP and how instruction in DCMP courses compares with traditional developmental and college-level math courses. Through a randomized controlled trial involving 1,422 students who entered the study from fall 2015 through spring 2017, the researchers examined the impact of DCMP on student outcomes for up to four semesters. The study also considers student perspectives on the reforms and the start-up and ongoing costs of DCMP to the colleges.
Researchers found that the colleges were successful in revising pre-existing policies, curricula, and pedagogy in order to launch and then scale DCMP courses to reach more students. They also found that instruction in DCMP courses looked very different from instruction in colleges’ standard developmental course offerings and college-level algebra courses. Finally, researchers found that DCMP students enrolled in and passed college-level math at higher rates than non-DCMP students, indicating that DCMP played a part in helping them overcome some of the pitfalls of developmental education and reach a crucial milestone.
CAPR’s Elizabeth Zachry Rutschow described the findings in an October 2020 MDRC podcast.
DCMP had a positive impact on students’ completion of the developmental math sequence and their likelihood of taking and passing college-level math.
The impacts of DCMP appear to be greater for part-time students and students assessed as needing multiple developmental courses.
Start-up and net ongoing direct costs to the colleges to implement and maintain DCMP were fairly low.