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 three major studies that together will help provide a foundation for this undertaking: (1) a national survey of developmental education practices at two- and four-year colleges, (2) an evaluation of alternate systems of remedial assessment and placement, and (3) an evaluation of an innovative developmental math pathways program. In addition, CAPR is currently conducting two related supplemental studies—one on the impact of completing developmental coursework before entering college, and the other on the use of learning technologies in developmental math.
CAPR’s research builds on prior studies of developmental education and college readiness programs conducted by CCRC, MDRC, and other scholars under the aegis of the National Center for Postsecondary Research (NCPR)—a national center established in 2006 through a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Our featured resources page provides links to these reports.