CAPR’s Research

Student walking down the library corridor

The goal of developmental education is to build the skills of academically underprepared students so that they are successful in college. Yet this goal is rarely met. About half of all entering college students participate in developmental education, but only one third of students who enroll in a developmental course go on to earn a postsecondary credential. While some colleges have implemented small-scale programs and various reforms to address this problem, these have not led to substantial improvement in college success rates among struggling students.

One immediate challenge is assessment—finding out who really needs remediation. Recent research shows that common standardized assessment instruments do a poor job of placing students into appropriate coursework. Another challenge is providing instruction and supports that are effective in helping underprepared student progress through college.

The purpose of CAPR‘s research is to help advance a second generation of developmental education innovation in which colleges and state agencies design, implement, and scale stronger and more comprehensive reforms that improve student outcomes. CAPR is conducting several studies to help provide a foundation for this undertaking: (1) a synthesis of evidence that will identify effective reforms and offer evidence on closing equity gaps, (2) a study of equitable and holistic corequisite course design, (3) a project to expand the adoption of multiple measures assessment, (4) an evaluation of alternate systems of remedial assessment and placement, and (5) an evaluation of an innovative developmental math pathways program. CAPR has completed several additional studies.

A Brief History of Developmental Research and Reform

Dating back to the 1990s and spanning three somewhat overlapping phases, reforms aspired to first strengthen student supports and then alter developmental education structure and content, before most recently integrating developmental education and comprehensive college reforms. Complementary bodies of research have evaluated the effects and documented the implementation of the interventions of each phase, informing the next generation of reform.

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