Promoting Equity in Developmental Education Reform: A Conversation with Nikki Edgecombe and Michael Weiss

Banner reads: A conversation with Nikki Edgecombe and Michel Weiss as featured on MDRC's Evidence First

In 2014, MDRC and the Community College Research Center launched CAPR to research the effectiveness of developmental education reforms and to understand their implications for equity. In a new episode of MDRC’s Evidence First podcast celebrating MDRC’s 50th anniversary, Leigh Parise talks with Nikki Edgecombe, a senior research scholar at CCRC who leads CAPR, and Michael Weiss, a senior fellow in postsecondary education at MDRC, about what has been learned about promoting equity in developmental education reform.

Though developmental education was designed to prepare students for college-level courses, studies from CAPR and others have shown that it can hinder students’ progress in college, especially among underserved student populations. And because students of color, adults, first-generation students, and those from low-income backgrounds are disproportionately placed in developmental education programs, they are more likely to feel the effects of the programs’ poor outcomes.

There’s a lot of interest among policymakers, college practitioners, and researchers in reforming developmental education programs to address these challenges and support more equitable outcomes for students. CAPR, CCRC, and MDRC researchers are thinking about how to build on reforms that have improved outcomes generally but have yet to close gaps.

“One of the things that’s always struck me about the developmental education interventions from some of their early forms to even the corequisite or various multiple measures assessment strategies is there’s nothing fundamental to the design or structure of the reforms that would suggest that they would generate differential impacts for a Black student versus a White student or a Latino student versus a Black student,” Edgecombe said. “That suggests to me that the fertile ground for us is going to be thinking about how are we going to complement, supplement, adapt these interventions in ways that direct us toward supports or essentially some change that’s likely to reduce those disparities.”

Visit MDRC’s website for the recording of the episode and the full transcript.