Changing Policy and Practice in Developmental Education: Assessing the Evidence and Engaging the Field

An overhead view of college students studying together

October 2020–May 2024

In response to a proliferation of rigorous research studies on the effectiveness of developmental education reform strategies, the majority of states now mandate or recommend that broad access colleges reform how they assess college readiness or change the sequencing and structure of developmental courses. However, it is difficult for policymakers and practitioners to make sense of the growing evidence base and effectively implement reforms grounded in the evidence in varying contexts and conditions. These challenges are amplified by the COVID-19 crisis and the rapid shift to online testing, instruction, and services.

This project is taking stock of the progress in developmental education reform and engaging practitioners, policymakers, and researchers to maintain momentum toward scaling and sustaining effective strategies. Researchers have written a synthesis of evidence from impact and implementation studies published between 2010 and 2022 that identifies five major principles for reforming developmental education, describes implementation lessons, and discusses the evidence on the costs of reform and questions for future research. The synthesis, published in October 2022, is accompanied by responses from leaders in the field.

The synthesis provides the backbone for a field engagement strategy designed to bolster the field’s ability to translate the evidence into policy and practice. Engagement activities will include the development and distribution of web-based tools and resources, including the CAPR Multiple Measures Assessment Toolkit, to help practitioners and policymakers translate findings from the synthesis; and virtual forums with practitioners, policymakers, and researchers.

This research is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305U200010 to Teachers College, Columbia University. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.