Video: The Intersection of Policy, Research, and Practice

CAPR held its annual meeting over the summer, and instead of focusing solely on research, we brought policymakers, college educators, and researchers together to talk about how we can forge stronger links so we can make sure research translates into better solutions for students.

We focused on the states of New York, Florida, and Texas because they are all experimenting with major developmental education reforms or testing innovative approaches in partnership with CAPR or others. We heard about how policymakers at different levels—in state legislatures and systems and colleges—use research as they make decisions about developmental education reforms. We also heard about how legislators in some states take an active role in policymaking, while in others the action is at the system or college level—highlighting the importance of understanding the local context when using research to shape policy.

The meeting also gave us a chance to talk on camera to some of the people in the thick of reimagining dev ed about how reforms can progress in their colleges and what they want to see from researchers to help their work. Please take a few minutes to watch the video, which has interviews with Christopher Mullin, executive vice chancellor of the Division of Florida Colleges; Belinda Miles, president of Westchester Community College, and Thomas Bailey, director of CAPR and CCRC.


Research, Policy, and Practice in Developmental Education

In the summer of 2017, CAPR convened policymakers, community college educators, and researchers from around the country to discuss how they can work better together to improve developmental education.

Christopher Mullin, Executive Vice Chancellor of the Division of Florida Colleges: Data and research is fundamental to what we do. Legislators want to understand the impact if they’re going to change some kind of policy, so they really want us to try to estimate how many students will be impacted and in what ways. And our colleges are really hungry for data. They really want to understand their data and what it means.

Belinda Miles, President of Westchester Community College: We’re always looking to see what are the evidence-based practices that are emerging from the field. We are delighted to innovate on our own but also happy to learn from our peers in the field. The dev ed reform work that we’re doing at Westchester Community College ends up being a very large part of the story. With about 80 percent of our students testing into at least one remedial course, we have to begin at the beginning. The end, of course, is the goal of completion for our entering cohorts. And we want to shorten that timeline within developmental education coursework to the best of our abilities.

What is CAPR doing to help policymakers and practitioners improve developmental education?

Thomas Bailey, Director of CAPR and CCRC: In general, the most effective research is research that is done in conjunction with practitioners. So I would hope that the projects that we do will inspire, let’s say, other places. If we come to the conclusion that at least where we’re doing it, those are effective, then there’s good evidence that let’s try that elsewhere. And we know especially for multiple measures, one of the projects we’re doing, there’s a big effort in California to do that, all over the state, in many colleges. Many other colleges around the country are using multiple measures for assessment. And certainly, the math pathways idea is also being used elsewhere. Basically, I think a big study like this can give people confidence that this is something worth at least trying and moving forward with.

How can researchers, policymakers, and practitioners work together to get the best results for students?

Miles: Within the State University of New York system, the community colleges do have local governing boards, but we do work hand-in-hand with the SUNY system office. We see ourselves as part of a large unit. But having that ability to see what the needs are at the local campuses really does, I think, support more buy-in and also allows the interventions to be tailored to specific populations on campuses. Broad engagement can truly ensure that a range of stakeholders are at the table, that they’re connected and sharing concepts and ideas early on in the process, and this includes lawmakers, their staff members, the researchers, faculty, administrators. It’s important to have that collective input.

Mullin: We need thoughtful research. We need research that understands the whole picture. That’s really the hard part, is really understanding and thinking through, okay, let’s just not think about the policy change itself, but if it happens, what does implementation look like. What happens after the governor signs the bill? Who has to be involved? What has to change? How do you make those changes in a way that has the smallest impact to students in a negative way. Because our job is to make sure they’re successful. There’s always this tension between waiting to see what the data and research will say and the need to understand that there’s an issue and to try and address that issue immediately. Because every year that we wait, there’s another cohort of students, another group of people coming to Florida to change their lives, to change intergenerational poverty, to get the job that they want, that’s not being served.