Bibliography

 

Overall Reviews and Studies of Developmental Education
Bailey, T. (2009). Rethinking developmental education in community college (Working Paper No. 14). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/challenge-and-opportunity.html#.UQ_92PKICSo

Bailey reviews evidence on the number of students who enter community colleges with weak academic skills and on the incidence of developmental education and report s on what happens to developmental students, and reviews the research on the effectiveness of programs at community colleges designed to strengthen weak academic skills. He briefly discusses the costs of these programs. Bailey concludes by arguing that, on average, developmental education as it is now practiced is not very effective in overcoming academic weaknesses, partly because the majority of students referred to developmental education do not finish the sequences to which they are referred. Yet there is reason for optimism. In recent years, a dramatic expansion in experimentation with new approaches to strengthen student skills has taken place. There is now a growing commitment to better evaluation and quantitative analysis of student progression in community colleges that promises a more systematic and informed process of program and policy development. Bailey suggests a broad developmental education reform agenda based on a comprehensive approach to assessment, more rigorous research that explicitly tracks students with weak academic skills through their early experiences at community colleges, a blurring of the distinction between developmental and “college-level” students that could improve pedagogy for both groups of students, and strategies to streamline developmental programs and accelerate students’ progress toward engagement in college-level work.

Bailey, T. & Cho, S. (2010) Issue brief: Developmental education in community colleges. Prepared for: The White House Summit on community college. New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/developmental-education-in-community-colleges.html#.UQ_-bfKICSo

Addressing the needs of developmental students is perhaps the most difficult and most important problem facing community colleges. Developmental students face tremendous barriers. Less than one quarter of community college students who enroll in developmental education complete a degree or certificate within eight years of enrollment in college. In comparison, almost 40 percent of community college students who do not enroll in any developmental education course complete a degree or certificate in the same time period. It will be very difficult to meet the Obama administration’s goal of increasing the number of community college graduates by 5 million by 2020 without making significant progress on improving outcomes for students who arrive at community colleges with weak academic skills.

In this Issue Brief we first report on evidence about the effectiveness of developmental education and then provide information about the progression of students through the sequence of developmental courses. We discuss problems associated with the assessments that are used to refer students to either college-level or developmental courses, and we also make a brief statement about costs. We then describe three initiatives designed to improve the performance of remedial services.

Bettinger, E. P., & Long, B. T. (2009). Addressing the needs of under prepared students in higher education: Does college remediation work? Journal of Human Resources, 44(3), 736-771. Retrieved from: www.nber.org/papers/w11325.pdf

Each year, thousands of students graduate high school academically unprepared for college. As a result, approximately one-third of entering post secondary students require remedial or developmental work before entering college-level courses. However, little is known about the causal impact of remediation on student outcomes. At an annual cost of over $1 billion at public colleges alone, there is a growing debate about its effectiveness. Who should be placed in remediation, and how does it affect their educational progress? This project addresses these critical questions by examining the effects of math and English remediation using a unique data set of approximately 28,000 students. To account for selection biases, the paper uses variation in remedial placement policies across institutions and the importance of proximity in college choice. The results suggest that students in remediation are more likely to persist in college in comparison to students with similar test scores and backgrounds who were not required to take the courses. They are also more likely to transfer to a higher-level college and to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Boylan, H.R. (2002). What works: Research-based best practices in developmental education. Boone, NC: Continuous Quality Improvement Network with the National Center for Developmental Education.

What Works features results from the “Best Practices in Developmental Education” benchmarking study by the Continuous Quality Improvement Network and the American Productivity and Quality Center. These results are combined with findings from a decade of research by the National Center for Developmental Education to create a guide to the best models and techniques available for the professional developmental educator.What Works identifies practically everything we know from research on how to design, implement, and evaluate developmental education and learning assistance programs. It addresses such issues as:

  • What are the most effective organizational arrangements for developmental education?
  • What classroom techniques result in the most learning for developmental students?
  • How should developmental programs be evaluated?
  • What support services work best for developmental students?

Each best practice included in the guidebook is described along with the research findings supporting its use. In addition, the guidebook provides advice and suggests resources for implementing best practices.

Clark-Thayer, S. (1995). NADE self-study guides. Clearwater, FL: H & H Publishing.

Collins, M. Setting up success in developmental education: How state policy can help community colleges to improve student outcomes. (Achieving the Dream Policy Brief). Washington D.C.: Achieving the Dream. Retrieved from: www.postsecondaryresearch.org/conference/PDF/NCPR_Panel 1_CollinsAtDPolicyBrief.pdf

Achieving the Dream, a national initiative to improve student success in community colleges, has taken a multi pronged approach to improving outcomes in developmental education. This issue brief describes how the fifteen participating states have concentrated their policy efforts on four key areas:

Preventative Strategies: States have a role to play in reducing the need for developmental education: setting and broadly communicating college-readiness standards, providing early assessment opportunities for high school students, and ensuring that high school and college-entrance standards and expectations are aligned.

Assessment and Placement: A state’s approach to placement-assessment policies can make the difference between whether a student who cannot succeed without intervention is well-served.

Implementation and Evaluation of Program Innovation: State policy can foster or impede experimentation and testing to find out what approaches to instruction and supports are effective in developmental education.

Performance Measurement and Incentives: States have considerable influence over the performance indicators used to measure progress and the impact of state and institutional interventions.

State policy plays a critical role in developing the conditions to implement these strategies so that under prepared students can remedy their academic deficiencies and get on track to earning the credentials and degrees they need to support their families and contribute to our nation’s economic vitality.

Collins, L. (2010). Access and equity in the CA community colleges: what research tells us: Current status and possibilities. Fullerton College Career Ladders Project. Retrieved from: www.careerladdersproject.org/docs/prerequisiteshearing.pdf

This is PowerPoint presentation looks specifically at California, but it addresses the same issues that plague Colorado. The presentation shows that too many students who start in developmental courses do not ever enroll in a college level course. The student also shows that students who test into developmental course work but who ignore that advice and enroll in a college level course are almost as successful as those who test into college level work. This presentation argues we need less remediation. Collins sees creating pathways for students that limits the number of pre requisites, that offers more opportunities for accelerated classes, that contextualizes learning, and that employs learning communities as a way to improve student success.

Collins, M. (2010). Bridging the evidence gap in developmental education. Journal of Developmental Education, 34(1), 2-9. Retrieved from: iws.collin.edu/dweasenforth/Calderwood/JDE 34-1.pdf

This article addresses conflicting perspectives regarding research in developmental education. Subsequent to examining opinions regarding the rigor of research in the field to date, recommendations for a research agenda are proposed. The study’s review of research strengths and weaknesses suggests multiple types of evidence, potentially pointing college leaders and policymakers to better strategies and approaches.

Doing Developmental Education Differently. (2012). Inside Out. Scaling Innovation Project. Retrieved from: ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/doing-developmental-education-differently.html#.UQ_-wvKICSo

Hughes, K., Edgecombe, N. & Snell, M. (2011). Developmental education: Why and how we must reform it. Presentation at the League for Innovation in the Community College Annual Conference. Retrieved from: ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/presentation/developmental-education-why-reform.html

There is increasing evidence that students placed into developmental education – especially the lowest levels – are unlikely to ever complete a college credential. Fortunately, this discouraging news is being met with experimentation with new models of developmental education, some of which are showing promising results. In this session, presenters reviewed the research base and shared innovative approaches that may help more students improve their skills and make progress towards a degree.

Jaggars, S & Hodara , M. (2011). The opposing forces that shape developmental education: assessment, placement, and progression at CUNY community colleges (CCRC Working Paper No. 36). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from CCRC website: ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/opposing-forces-developmental-education.html#.UQ__ovKICSo

Based on a case study of the City University of New York’s six community colleges, this report proposes a new opposing forces framework for understanding the dysfunction of the developmental system. The report identifies three sets of opposing forces that shape developmental policy and practice: system-wide consistency versus institutional autonomy, efficient versus effective assessment, and promotion of student progression versus enforcement of academic standards. Within each set, both goals are important and worthy, both are championed by key stakeholders in the system, and both have direct impacts on developmental policy. However, while the two goals may not be absolutely irreconcilable, they tend to work in opposition to one another and may create frustration on the part of administrators and faculty, confusion on the part of students, and poor outcomes overall.

Jenkins, D. (2011). Redesigning community colleges for completion: Lessons from research on high-performing organizations (CCRC Working Paper No. 24, Assessment of Evidence Series). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/high-performance-organizations.html#.UQ__1PKICSo

After examining the research from within and outside of higher education on organizational performance, this paper identifies eight practices common among high-performance organizations: leadership, focus on the customer, functional alignment, process improvement, use of measurement, employee involvement and professional development, and external linkages. Evidence suggests that these organizational practices have the greatest impact on performance when implemented in concert with one another. The paper assesses the extent to which community colleges generally are following these practices and evaluates current reform efforts in light of models of organizational effectiveness that emerge from the research literature.

In order to bring about improvements in organizational performance, community colleges will need to involve faculty and staff in reform efforts. This paper reviews research on strategies for engaging faculty and staff in organizational innovation and describes particular challenges community colleges face on this front. The concluding section recommends concrete steps community college leaders can take to redesign how they manage programs and services to increase rates of student completion on a scale needed to help meet national goals for college attainment.

Jenkins, D., Jaggars, S.S., & Roksa, J. (2009). Promoting gatekeeper course success among community college students needing remediation. New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/gatekeeper-course-success-virginia.html#.URAALfKICSo

The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) is engaged in a strategic planning process to improve performance beyond the goals in Dateline 2009, the system’s current vision and plan. A key objective is to encourage colleges to improve retention and academic success for students, particularly the substantial numbers who arrive unprepared for college-level work. Specifically, the VCCS seeks to improve the rates at which underprepared students complete developmental coursework and advance to take and pass college courses, particularly the initial college-level, or “gatekeeper,” math and English offerings. This report presents the main findings from CCRC’s study and outlines suggestions for steps that the VCCS and its member colleges might take to improve completion of gatekeeper courses by the many students who enter the state’s community colleges poorly prepared to succeed in college-level work.

Perry, M.; Bahr, P.R.; Rosin, M.; & Woodward, K.M. (2010). Course-taking patterns, policies, and practices in developmental education in the California Community Colleges. Mountain View, CA: EdSource. Retrieved from: www.edsource.org/assets/files/ccstudy/FULL-CC-DevelopmentalCoursetaking.pdf

This study provides benchmark measures of student behavior and outcomes in developmental education as it has been practiced in the state to date, and an assessment of prospects for continued growth and improvement looking forward. Based on the findings and conclusions from both the quantitative and qualitative sections, it also presents implications for state policy as California works to strengthen developmental education at its 112 community colleges.

Roueche, J., & Roueche, S. (1999). High stakes, high performance: Making remedial education work. Washington, DC: American Association of Community Colleges, The Community College Press.

The American Association of Community Colleges commissioned this study of remedial education in community colleges as a framework for describing context, generating discussion, and encouraging improvement. The study reviews current research about open-door policies, underprepared students, faculty, and remedial programs. It also argues that changing demographics, burgeoning technologies, and a faltering public education system have led to increased illiteracy, unemployment, welfare dependency, racial tensions, crime, and other social ills. The report describes the major issues surrounding remediation in community colleges and provides the following recommendations to colleges for improving current practices: (1) examine the characteristics of other institutions’ successful remedial programs in the interest of adopting them; (2) employ a more collaborative effort to learn from other colleges; (3) ask the questions about your own college’s performance that are being asked about others, and take appropriate action; (4) provide a holistic approach to programs for at-risk students, addressing their broad range of needs; (5) abolish voluntary placement in remedial courses; (6) create a more seamless web of collaboration with other educational institutions; and (7) strengthen this web by partnering with private businesses.

Rutschow, E. & Schneider, E. (2011). Unlocking the gate: What we know about improving developmental education. New York, NY: MDRC. Retrieved from MDRC website: www.mdrc.org/sites/default/files/full_595.pdf

This literature review seeks to examine research on developmental education strategies and reforms and identify the most promising approaches for improving developmental education students’ success. The key focus is on investigating those strategies with rigorous evidence showing improvements in students’ achievement and suggesting areas for future innovations in developmental education practice and research. This analysis focuses on four different types of interventions for improving students’ progress through remedial education and into college-level courses, including (1) strategies that help students avoid developmental education and move directly in college-level work; (2) interventions that accelerate students’ progress through developmental education; (3) contextualized instructional models that connect students with workforce training and college-level courses; and (4) supplemental supports aimed at improving students’ success.

The findings from this study suggest that while research on best practices in developmental education abounds, little rigorous research exists that documents the effects of these reforms on students’ achievement. The most promising strategies for moving students more quickly through remedial courses and into college-level work tend to be those that: (1) help students build their skills before entering college; (2) integrate students’ into college-level courses; and/or (3) provide clear opportunities for the development of occupational and workforce skills. Exploration of more radical approaches to transforming developmental education is also recommended. Finally, suggestions for tackling the institutional challenges to implementing developmental education reforms, such placement.

Scott-Clayton, J. (2011). The shapeless river: Does a lack of structure inhibit students’ progress at community colleges? (CCRC Working Paper No. 25, Assessment of Evidence Series). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/lack-of-structure-students-progress.html#.URAAW_KICSo

For many students at community colleges, finding a path to degree completion is the equivalent of navigating a shapeless river on a dark night–but very few studies have explicitly examined the role of structure in student persistence. This paper addresses the issue of student persistence by integrating previously disconnected evidence and drawing on ideas from behavioral economics and psychology. Central to the paper is the structure hypothesis: that community college students will be more likely to persist and succeed in programs that are tightly and consciously structured, with relatively little room for individuals to unintentionally deviate from paths toward completion, and with limited bureaucratic obstacles for students to circumnavigate. Evidence suggests that the lack of structure in many community colleges is likely to result in less-than-optimal decisions by students about whether and how to persist toward a credential. Though there is no silver-bullet intervention to address this problem, this paper highlights several promising approaches and suggests directions for future experimentation and research.

Scott-Clayton, J. & Rodriguez, O. (2012). Development, discouragement, or diversion? New evidence on the effects of college remediation (NBER Working Paper No. 18328). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.

Using a regression-discontinuity design with data from a large urban community college system, this NBER working paper articulates three alternative models of remediation to help guide interpretation of sometimes conflicting results in the literature. In addition to credits and degree completion, the authors examine several under-explored outcomes, including the initial decision to enroll, grades in subsequent college courses, and post-treatment proficiency test scores. Finally, the authors exploit rich high school background data to examine heterogeneity in the impact of remedial assignment by predicted academic risk. Evidence from this study suggests that remediation does little to develop students’ skills. But there is also relatively little evidence that it discourages either initial enrollment or persistence, except for a subgroup identified as potentially mis-assigned to remediation. Instead, the primary effect of remediation appears to be diversionary: Students simply take remedial courses instead of college-level courses. These diversionary effects are largest for the lowest-risk students. Implications for remediation policy are discussed.

Snell, M. (2008). Role of faculty learning in community colleges. Presentation at the Carnegie Foundation Improving Basic Skills Education in Community in Stanford, CA. Retrieved from: www.carnegiefoundation.org/carnegieviews/developmental-mathematics-community-colleges/myra-snell

Myra Snell outlines the components of faculty professional development for an accelerated program.

Zachry, E. & Schneider, E. (2010) Building foundations for student readiness: A review of rigorous research and promising trends in developmental education (A NCPR Working Paper).Prepared for NCPR Developmental Education Conference: What Policies and Practices Work for Students?, Teachers College, Columbia University. Retrieved from www.postsecondaryresearch.org/conference/PDF/NCPR_Panel%203_ZachrySchneiderPaper.pdf

This literature review seeks to examine research on developmental education strategies and reforms and identify the most promising approaches for improving developmental education students’ success. The key focus is on investigating those strategies with rigorous evidence showing improvements in students’ achievement and suggesting areas for future innovations in developmental education practice and research. This analysis focuses on four different types of interventions for improving students’ progress through remedial education and into college-level courses, including (1) strategies that help students avoid developmental education and move directly in college-level work; (2) interventions that accelerate students’ progress through developmental education; (3) contextualized instructional models that connect students with workforce training and college-level courses; and (4) supplemental supports aimed at improving students’ success.

The findings from this study suggest that while research on best practices in developmental education abounds, little rigorous research exists that documents the effects of these reforms on students’ achievement. The most promising strategies for moving students more quickly through remedial courses and into college-level work tend to be those that: (1) help students build their skills before entering college; (2) integrate students’ into college-level courses; and/or (3) provide clear opportunities for the development of occupational and workforce skills. Exploration of more radical approaches to transforming developmental education is also recommended. Finally, suggestions for tackling the institutional challenges to implementing developmental education reforms, such placement tests, adjunct faculty, and professional development, are also provided.

Back to top

Sequence of Courses

Bailey, T., Jeong, D. & Cho, S. (2010). Student progression through developmental sequences in community colleges (CCCR Brief 45). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/referral-enrollment-completion-developmental-education.html

This Brief summarizes a CCRC study that analyzed the patterns and determinants of student progression through sequences of developmental education starting from initial referral. The authors relied primarily on a micro-level longitudinal dataset that includes detailed information about student progression through developmental education. This dataset was collected as part of the national community college initiative, Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count. The dataset has many advantages, but it is not nationally representative; therefore, we check our results against a national dataset—the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988.

Results of the study indicate that fewer than one half of the students who are referred to remediation actually complete the entire sequence to which they are referred. About 30 percent of students referred to developmental education do not enroll in any remedial course, and only about 60 percent of referred students actually enroll in the remedial course to which they were referred. The results also show that more students exit their developmental sequences because they did not enroll in the first or a subsequent course than because they failed or withdrew from a course in which they were enrolled.

Bailey, T., Dong, W., & Cho, S. (2010). Referral, enrollment, and completion in developmental education sequences in community colleges. Economics of Education Review, 29, 255–270.

The article attempts to be even-handed and acknowledges some of the potential problems with its own data. It focuses on students who complete developmental courses but fall out of the developmental sequence. The writers had a huge sample size, and they offer a huge amount of data looking at issues from various viewpoints. However, their final conclusion is that students need not to be taken backward and given repetition of lower level skills, but rather to develop those skills in the context of college-level work. They reach this conclusion without any discussion of curriculum whatsoever.

Back to top

Math Studies

Bahr, P. (2008). Does mathematics remediation work: A comparative analysis of academic attainment among community college students. Research in Higher Education, 49 (5): 420-450.

Bahr uses hierarchical multinomial logistic regression to analyze data that address a population of 85,894 freshmen, enrolled in 107 community colleges, for the purpose of comparing the long-term academic outcomes of students who remediate successfully (achieve college-level math skill) with those of students who achieve college-level math skill without remedial assistance. He found that these two groups of students experience comparable outcomes, which indicates that remedial math programs are highly effective at resolving skill deficiencies.

Biswas, R. (2007). Accelerating remedial math education: How institutional innovation and state policy interact (Achieving the Dream Policy Brief). Boston: Jobs for the Future. Retrieved from: http://www.jff.org/sites/default/files/RemedialMath_3.pdf

Success in developmental education has emerged as a top priority for institutions and states participating in Achieving the Dream, a national initiative on community college success. As some colleges have begun experimenting with alternative delivery and design approaches for remedial math, the institutions are guided and sometimes limited by systems and state policies—around enrollment, financial aid, funding, data systems, and accountability. These policies often reinforce the traditional design and delivery of developmental education and make flexible delivery difficult.

This policy brief looks at efforts in three community colleges, two of which are Achieving the Dream institutions, to revamp their remedial math programming. These three colleges and their efforts to accelerate developmental math provide an important and instructive window on how institutional practice can be shaped by state and system policies—and by shifts in policies. They also demonstrate how important it is for college innovators to work closely with state and system policymakers to protect and promote efforts that show promise to improve student success at the college level.

Cullinane, J. and Treisman, P. (2010). Improving developmental mathematics education in community colleges: A prospectus and early progress report on the statway initiative. Prepared for the NCPR Conference What Policies and Practices Work for Students? Retrieved from: www.postsecondaryresearch.org/conference/PDF/NCPR_Panel4_CullinaneTreismanPaper_Statway.pdf

Developmental education has the mission of enabling underprepared students to acquire the capabilities necessary for college success. A growing number of research studies document its failure, however; specifically, approximately two thirds of community college students referred to a remedial mathematics sequence do not complete it. In response to these findings, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, with the Charles A. Dana Center as a principal design partner, is launching a comprehensive initiative to create two new pathways, the Statway and the Mathway, to enable developmental mathematics students to complete a credit-bearing, transferable mathematics course in one academic year while simultaneously building skills for long-term college success. The primary curricular goal of the Statway course sequence is to develop the mathematical proficiency of students pursuing non-STEM academic and occupational programs, with a special focus on statistical literacy. This paper describes the research-based Statway design and its intended learning outcomes, the processes and participants involved in its development, and the challenges of implementation.

The Dana Center. (2012). The new Mathways project implementation guide. Charles Dana Center, University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved from: www.utdanacenter.org/mathways/downloads/new-mathways-implementation-2012april16.pdf

The Dana Center created this implementation guide to support institutions preparing for significant redesign of developmental and gateway college-level mathematics programs based on the principles of the New Mathways Project as described below It outlines general steps in approaching systemic reform. While the Dana Center prepared this guide with the needs of the New Mathways Project in mind, it can be applied to any major reform effort.

Hodara, M. (2011). Reforming mathematics classroom pedagogy: Evidence-based findings and recommendations for the developmental math classroom (CCRC Working Paper No. 27, Assessment of Evidence Series). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/reforming-mathematics-classroom-pedagogy.html

For developmental education students, rates of developmental math course completion and persistence into required college-level math courses are particularly low. This literature review examines the evidence base on reforming mathematics classroom pedagogy, which may be a potential means for improving the course completion and learning outcomes of developmental mathematics students. Each study examined for this review was classified into one of six sets: student collaboration, metacognition, problem representation, application, understanding student thinking, and computer-based learning.

Because most of the studies across the sets did not employ rigorous methods, the evidence regarding the impact of these instructional practices on student outcomes is inconclusive. Nevertheless, analysis of the studies that did employ rigorous designs suggests that structured forms of student collaboration and instructional approaches that focus on problem representation may improve math learning and understanding. This paper concludes by making a number of methodological recommendations, proposing several needed areas of research, and suggesting instructional practices that may improve the outcomes of developmental math students.

Back to top

Acceleration and Mainstreaming

Brancard, R., Baker E., & Jensen, L (2006). Accelerated developmental education project: research report Community College of Denver. Retrieved from: http://inpathways.net/accelerated-dev-ed.pdf

This report is an analysis of Faststart an accelerated developmental program at the Community College of Denver. The project included English, Math, and Reading courses. While the program does not alter the curriculum, the program does alter the pace: instead of one semester for one course, Faststart has two courses in one semester so that students can complete two developmental math or two developmental English or two developmental reading courses in one semester. Faststart also includes a mandatory successful student course, required tutoring, required small group meetings, and online supplements in addition to coursework.

Cho, S., Kopko E., Jenkins D. & Jaggars S. (2012). New evidence of success for community college remedial English students: Tracking the outcomes of students in the accelerated learning program (ALP) (CCRC Working Paper No. 53). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from CCRC website ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/ccbc-alp-student-outcomes-follow-up.html

This paper presents the findings from a follow-up quantitative analysis of the Community College of Baltimore County’s Accelerated Learning Program (ALP). The results suggest that among students who enroll in the highest level developmental writing course, participation in ALP is associated with substantially better outcomes in terms of college-level English course completion, which corroborates the results of a similar analysis completed in 2010.

Davis, J. (2011). Get with the Program: Accelerating Community College Students’ Entry into and Completion of Programs of Study (CCRC Working Paper No. 32). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/get-with-the-program.html

This paper is primarily concerned with accelerating students’ entry into a defined program of study, but it does discuss developmental education as well, even making the statement that one reason students do not enter into programs quickly enough is that they become “sidetracked” by remedial courses. The writer demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of developmental instruction in terms of both its purpose and its pedagogy. The paper makes no attempt to explore or understand the reasons that students do not enter into programs immediately. A great share of the paper seems more concerned with measuring and tracking student progress than examining factors that impede that progress.

Edgecombe, N. (2011). Accelerating the academic achievement of students referred to developmental education (CCRC Working Paper No. 30, Assessment of Evidence Series). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/accelerating-academic-achievement-developmental-education.html

Acceleration, which involves the reorganization of instruction and curricula in ways that facilitate the completion of educational requirements in an expedited manner, is an increasingly popular strategy at community colleges for improving the outcomes of developmental education students. This paper reviews the literature on acceleration and considers the quality of evidence available on the effects of acceleration on student outcomes. After examining various definitions of acceleration to better understand what it is and how it works, the paper describes and categorizes the different acceleration models in use. Then, the recent empirical literature on acceleration is reviewed to assess the effectiveness of these approaches. While the empirical basis for acceleration is not as strong as is desirable, existing evidence suggests that there are a variety of models of course redesign and mainstreaming that community colleges can employ to enhance student outcomes. The paper closes with a discussion of the challenges involved in implementing acceleration strategies and recommendations for policy, practice, and research.

Hern, K., & deWit, T. (2010). Accelerating students’ progress through college-level English and math: Restructuring curricula and reducing the length of developmental sequences. PowerPoint presentation at Achieving the Dream Strategy Institute. Retrieved from: http://fincommons.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Acceleration-AtD.pdf

In this PowerPoint presentation, Hern and deWit argue that the more developmental courses a student must take and the more the less likely that student is to ever enroll in and complete a college level course. They offer acceleration of students from a sequence of developmental courses to one developmental course. They offer the Stapath program at Los Medanos College and the accelerated English program at Chabot College as evidence that reducing the number of courses and therefore the length of time builds more student success.

Hern, K. & Snell, M. (2010). Exponential attrition and the promise of acceleration in developmental English and math. Unpublished manuscript. San Francisco, CA: Faculty Inquiry Network, Chabot College. Retrieved from: http://facultyinquiry.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Hern-Exponential-Attrition.pdf

This article begins by demonstrating that the problem is fundamentally structural. Attrition is high in developmental sequences, but more important, attrition is exponential. As students fall away at each level, the pool of continuing students gets smaller and smaller until only a fraction of the original group remains to complete the sequence. The article then presents evidence questioning whether long sequences are even necessary to prepare students for college-level work in English and Math. This section includes an in-depth look at models of acceleration from Chabot and Los Medanos. Both colleges offer open-access, one-semester developmental courses that lead directly to the transfer level. One is a brand new experiment; the other has been in place for fifteen years. Both have produced dramatic increases in the number of basic skills students who successfully complete college English and math.

Hern, K. (2011). Accelerated English at Chabot College: A synthesis of key findings. Hayward, CA: California Acceleration Project. Retrieved from: http://www.scalinginnovation.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Chabot-Accelerated-English-Synthesis.pdf

This report synthesizes the findings of several inquiries into Chabot College’s accelerated developmental English course—a 4 credit, integrated reading and writing course that is the one developmental course offered in English at Chabot. This course has no minimum placement core. She provides over a decade of data that demonstrates students from this accelerated course complete a college English course at higher rates than those students who take a two course sequence. She also connects their success to higher pass rates across the curriculum and with better performance in the college level course. The report closes with a discussion of the implications for developmental education and argues for reform of the practice of offering long sequences of developmental courses.

Jenkins, D., Speroni, C., Belfield, C., Jaggars, S. S., & Edgecombe, N. (2010). A model for accelerating academic success of community college remedial English students: Is the Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) effective and affordable? (CCRC Working Paper No. 21). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/accelerating-academic-success-remedial-english.html

The Community College of Baltimore County’s Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) permits upper-level developmental writing students to enroll directly in English 101 (ENGL 101) while simultaneously taking a companion course, taught by the same instructor, that provides extra academic support. The aim of the ALP course, which has only eight students per classroom, is to help students maximize the likelihood of their success in English 101.

Results suggest that among students who place into the highest level of developmental writing, participating in ALP is associated with substantially better outcomes in terms of English 101 completion and English 102 completion, the two primary outcomes ALP was designed to improve. In the sample used in this study, 82% of ALP students passed ENGL 101 within one year, compared with 69% of non-ALP ENGL 052 students. More than a third (34%) of ALP students passed ENGL 102, compared with only 12% of the non-ALP ENGL 052 students.

The current paper includes a cost-effectiveness analysis and a rough cost—benefit analysis of ALP. Results also show that, compared to the conventional approach, ALP provides a substantially more cost-effective route for students to pass the ENGL 101 and 102 sequence required for an associate degree ($2,680 versus $3,122 per student) while the benefits of ALP are more than double the costs.

Snell, M.& Hern, K. (2011). Select models of accelerated developmental English and math. Presentation for 3CSN Acceleration Initiative. Retrieved from http://3csn.org/developmental-sequences/

This presentation by Hern (Chabot College) and Snell (Los Medanos) starts with Bailey’s premise that the more levels of developmental courses a student must go through, the less likely that student is to ever complete a college level course. They offer evidence form the accelerated English program at Chabot and the Statways math project at Los Medanos to demonstrate that reducing the number of course and reducing the times increases the number of students who complete college level courses.

Whissemore, T. (2010, Dec. 14). Using developmental education to attain college success. Community College Times. Retrieved from: http://www.communitycollegetimes.com/Pages/Academic-Programs/Using-developmental-education-to-attain-college-success.aspx

This article describes the success of two accelerated programs: Community College of Baltimore County and Community College of Denver.

Wlodkowski, R. (2003) Accelerated learning in colleges and universities. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 975-13.

This article provides a research-based overview of accelerated learning as a program and educational format in higher education.

Back to top

Contextualization and the IBEST Model

Baker, E., Hope, L. & Karandjeff. (2009). Contextualized teaching and learning: A faculty primer: A review of the literature and faculty practices for implications for California community college practitioners. California: Center for Student Success. Retrieved from: http://www.cccbsi.org/Websites/basicskills/Images/CTL.pdf

The report offers California community college faculty a closer look at contextualized teaching and learning (CTL) as a promising set of strategies and practices that can be expanded through the state’s Basic Skills Initiative. The report is relevant to a range of instructional and counseling faculty, including academic and career and technical education (CTE), Mathematics, English and English as a Second Language (ESL) instructors, as well as to basic skills staff and administrators.

The report is organized into three main sections: (1) a case statement for contextualized teaching and learning that draws on relevant research and learning theory and situates the practice within workforce development, (2) a review of a range of contextualized teaching and learning practices, told from the faculty/ program director perspective, and (3) a set of considerations for community college faculty and leaders as well as funders and policy makers interested in the potential of contextualized teaching and learning to strengthen student success.

Crawford, M. (2001). Teaching contextually: Research, rationale, and techniques for improving student motivation and achievement in mathematics and science. Waco, TX: CCI Publishing. Retrieved from: http://www.cord.org/uploadedfiles/Teaching%20Contextually%20(Crawford).pdf

This report describes five of strategies called for contextual teaching:

Relating — learning in the context of one’s life experiences or preexisting knowledge

Experiencing — learning by doing, or through exploration, discovery, and invention

Applying — learning by putting the concepts to use

Cooperating — learning in the context of sharing, responding, and communicating with other learners

Transferring — using knowledge in a new context or novel situation-one that has not been covered in class

This report presents examples of the use of these strategies in mathematics classrooms. It also cites research studies and compendiums that document how the strategies can improve student motivation and achievement in mathematics and science.

Educational Development Center. (2012). Models of contextualization in developmental and adult basic education. Waltham, MA: EDC. Retrieved from: http://stage.etlo.org/sites/etlo.org/files/highlight-files/Models%20of%20Contextualization%20in%20Developmental%20and%20Adult%20Basic%20Education.pdf

The report describes contextualized Adult Basic Education (ABE) and Developmental Education models in use across the country, other recognized ABE And Developmental Education Models that can integrate contextualization into their programs, and two models of professional development for teaching in contextualized environments. These models were selected to inform the contextualized curriculum development work of the Massachusetts Community College Workforce and Development Transformation Agenda (MCCWDTA).

Grubb, N. & Kraskouskas, E. (1992). A time to every purpose: Integrating occupational and academic education in community colleges and technical institutes. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education. Retrieved from: http://www.nrccte.org/sites/default/files/publication-files/a_time_to_every_purpose.pdf

There has been a shift in favor of emphasizing more general or “academic” skills over the specialized or “vocational.” Partly this has come from the business community, pressing for certain competencies it thinks necessary for a more productive workforce. Within occupational education, recent federal legislation requiring the integration of vocational and academic education has reinforced the trend. However, there has been little guidance about what such integration might be, especially for community colleges and technical institutes. To fill the gap, this monograph describes various approaches to curriculum integration at the postsecondary level and is based on a survey of practices in community colleges and technical institutes across the United States.

Jayasundara, R. (2010). How the I-BEST model can address the developmental education challenge. Presentation at Pathways for Native Students Conference, Seattle, WA. Retrieved from http://www.evergreen.edu/nativeprograms/conferences/pathways/docs/bestpathwaysconference.pdf

While this presentation applies the IBEST model to tribal colleges, it also identifies an instructional model that supports students at developmental or precollege levels and defines key factors that contribute to student success in these programs (I-BEST) for all educational settings.

Jenkins, D., Zeidenberg, M., & Kienzl, G.S. (May 2009). Building bridges to postsecondary training for low skill adults: Outcomes of Washington State’s I-BEST Program (CCRC Brief No. 42). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?UID=695

This Brief, which is based on CCRC Working Paper No. 16, summarizes findings from a study conducted by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University, on the outcomes of the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training program, or I-BEST, an innovative program developed by the community and technical colleges in Washington State to increase the rate at which adult basic skills students enter and succeed in postsecondary occupational education and training.

The study found that on all the outcomes examined, students participating in I-BEST did better than other basic skills students, including those who enrolled in at least one non-I-BEST workforce course. I-BEST students were more likely than others to: continue into credit-bearing coursework; earn credits that count toward a college credential; earn occupational certificates; and make point gains on basic skills tests.

Jenkins, D., Zeidenberg, M., & Kienzl, G.S. (2009). Educational outcomes of I-BEST,
Washington State Community and Technical College System’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program: Findings from a multivariate analysis
(Working Paper No. 16). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?UID=692

The CCRC study reported on here used multivariate analysis to compare the educational outcomes over a two-year tracking period of I-BEST students with those of other basic skills students, including students who comprise a particularly apt comparison group-those non-I-BEST basic skills students who nonetheless enrolled in at least one workforce course in academic year 2006-07, the period of enrollment in the study. The researchers examined data on more than 31,000 basic skills students in Washington State, including nearly 900 I-BEST participants. The analyses controlled for observed differences in background characteristics of students in the sample.

The study found that students participating in I-BEST achieved better educational outcomes than did other basic skills students, including those who enrolled in at least one non-I-BEST workforce course. I-BEST students were more likely than others to:

  • Continue into credit-bearing coursework
  • Earn credits that count toward a college credential
  • Earn occupational certificates
  • Make point gains on basic skills tests

Perin, D. (2011). Facilitating student learning through contextualization (CCRC
Working Paper No. 29, Assessment of Evidence Series). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?UID=866

This paper is a literature review that explores the nature and effectiveness of contextualization as a way to improve outcomes for academically underprepared college students. Two forms of contextualization have been studied: “contextualized” and “integrated” instruction. There is more descriptive work on the contextualization of basic skills than studies with student outcome data. In addition, many studies with quantitative evidence on the effectiveness of contextualization have methodological flaws that limit conclusions. Further, only a small number of studies are with college students. However, despite these problems, contextualization seems to be a promising direction for accelerating the progress of academically underprepared college students. The method of contextualization is grounded in a conceptual framework relating to the transfer of skill and student motivation; practitioners who use it observe positive results, and the available quantitative evidence indicates that it has the potential to increase achievement.

Perin , D. and Bork, R. (2010). A contextualized reading-writing intervention for community college students (CCRC Brief No. 44). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?UID=788

With funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, an intervention called the Content Comprehension Strategy Intervention (CCSI) was developed and tested at three community colleges. CCRC researchers drafted and pilot-tested the intervention in collaboration with science and developmental education faculty and senior administrators at Bronx Community College. The intervention was further tested and revised at Los Angeles Pierce College and Norwalk Community College. This Brief describes the intervention and presents data suggesting that it is a promising strategy for community college students who need to improve their reading and writing skills.

Perin, D. et. al. (2012). A contextualized intervention for community college developmental reading and writing students (CCRC Working Paper No. 38). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?UID=1007

This paper provides evidence on the potential efficacy of an approach to helping students develop an important academic skill, written summarization. In two experiments, a contextualized intervention was administered to developmental reading and writing students in two community colleges. The intervention was a 10-week curricular supplement that emphasized written summarization, as well as vocabulary knowledge, question generation, reading comprehension, and persuasive writing. The findings of this study suggest that the intervention had utility for academically underprepared postsecondary students.

Wachen, J., Jenkins, D., & Van Noy, M. (2010). How I-BEST works: Findings from a field study of Washington State’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program. New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center.

Quantitative analyses of the I-BEST model indicate that it is effective in improving educational outcomes, but few people in the larger higher education community outside of Washington’s two-year colleges fully understand how I-BEST programs work. Therefore, the study reported on here examines how the 34 community and technical colleges in Washington State are implementing the I-BEST model and how I-BEST programs operate. Specifically, it addresses the following research questions:

How is I-BEST being implemented across Washington State’s community and technical colleges? What elements and approaches are common across programs? What accounts for variations in approach and organization?

What does I-BEST look like in the classroom? To what extent and in what ways are technical and basic skills instruction in I-BEST courses integrated?

What is the nature of the I-BEST student population? How do students get into I-BEST programs? What support services do colleges offer I-BEST students?

What costs are involved in operating I-BEST programs? Are I-BEST programs sustainable financially?

What are key challenges and promising practices for implementing I-BEST programs? What advice can be offered to other colleges and state systems interested in implementing similar programs?

Zeidenberg, M., Cho, S-.W., & Jenkins, D. (2010). Washington State’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training program (I-BEST): New evidence of effectiveness (CCRC Working Paper No. 20). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?UID=805

This study examined the impact of I-BEST (a basic skills instructor and an occupational instructor team teach occupational courses with integrated basic skills content, and students receive college-level credit for the occupational coursework) on students enrolled in the program in 2006-07 and 2007-08. It measured seven educational outcome variables: (1) whether a student earned any college credit (of any kind), (2) whether a student earned any occupational college credit, (3) the number of college credits a student earned, (4) the number of occupational college credits a student earned, (5) whether or not a student persisted to the following year after initial enrollment, (6) whether a student earned a certificate or degree, and (7) whether a student achieved point gains on basic skills tests. We also examined two labor market outcomes: the change in wages for those who were employed both before and after program enrollment, and the change in the number of hours worked after leaving the program.

I-BEST had positive impacts on all but one of the educational outcomes (persistence was not affected), but no impact on the two labor market outcomes. However, I-BEST students in our sample were entering the labor market just as the economy was entering a major recession, and perhaps a future evaluation will reveal better labor market outcomes.

Back to top

Modularization and the Emporium Model

Aagard, H. (2011, Sep. 23). Course redesign – emporium model. Retrieved from: www.youtube.com/watch

This is a brief explanation of the emporium model of course redesign. The emporium model replaces lecture time with time in a computer lab with software and help from TAs and instructors.

Carey, Kevin. (2009, May 28). Introducing a remedial program that actually works. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from: http://chronicle.com/article/Introducing-a-Remedial-Prog/44409/?viewMobile=1

Carey highlights the success of Cleveland State Community College uses the emporium method for math instruction.

Hawkins, M. (2012, Feb 12). How does the emporium work. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofoJz_MffIQ

Math instructor Mark Hawkins describes how the Math Emporium Model implemented at Madisonville Community College works.

Mills, K. (2010). Redesigning the Basics Tennessee’s community colleges use technology to change their approach to developmental reading and math. Retrieved from http://www.highereducation.org/crosstalk/ctbook/pdfbook/TennRedesignBasicsBookLayout.pdf

Using the testimony of practitioners and students, this article discusses the success of the emporium model in Tennessee’s community colleges.

National Center for Academic Transformation. (2010). The Emporium Model: How to Structure a Math Emporium Advice from NCAT’s Redesign Scholars. Saratoga Springs, NY: NCAT Publication. Retrieved from: http://www.thencat.org/Mathematics/Redesigning%20Math%20Resources%20032311.pdf

This publication provides a step by step process for designing and implementing the emporium model.

Squires, J. (2011, Jul 1) New solutions for old problems: Continuous enrollment. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFWHztQgva4
John Squires, Math Chair at Chattanooga State Community College, TN talks about Redesigning math making continuous enrollment possible with emporium math.

Squires, John. (2010, Oct, 15). Course redesign. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9hO7IIiJ5s

Chair of Math Department, Cleveland State Community College, TN talks about what happened when he redesigned math. Students did better and teachers like the redesign better despite initially resisting the change. Students can complete more than one course per semester and take up where they left off the next semester.

Squires, J. (2010). The total impact of course redesign (The Cross Papers No 13). Phoenix, AZ: League for Innovation. Retrieved from http://www.league.org/blog/assets/content//PagesfromCrossPapers13.pdf

John Squires provides a primer on course redesign, a process introduced in 1999 by Carol Twigg and the National Center for Academic Transformation. Squires describes the models of instruction, principles of course redesign, and techniques for successful redesign projects. He offers examples of course redesign – most in courses commonly offered at community and technical colleges – and an example of a redesigned department. He discusses course redesign in the context of learning theory and looks to the future of this innovative approach to teaching and learning.

Twigg, C. (2011). The Math Emporium: Higher Education’s Silver Bullet. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning. Retrieved from: http://www.changemag.org/Archives/Back%20Issues/2011/May-June%202011/math-emporium-full.html

Twigg explores the rationale between the corse redesign principles of the emporium model.

Back to top

Learning Communities

Scrivener, et al. (2008). A good start: Two-year effects of a freshmen learning community program at Kingsborough Community College. New York, NY: MDRC. Retrieved from: http://www.mdrc.org/sites/default/files/A%20Good%20Start%20ESpdf.pdf

As part of the Opening Doors demonstration and evaluation project jointly undertaken by MDRC and the MacArthur Foundation-funded Network on Transitions to Adulthood, six participating colleges tested a program called Opening Doors Learning Communities. The program placed freshmen, most of whom failed one or more of the skills assessment tests that all incoming students take, into groups of up to 25 who took three classes together during their first semester. It also provided enhanced counseling and tutoring as well as a voucher for textbooks. In summary, the key findings from this report are:

The program improved students’ college experience. Students in the program group felt more integrated and more engaged than students in the control group.

The program improved some educational outcomes while students were in the learning community, but the effects diminished later.

Program group students passed more courses and earned more credits during their first semester.

The program moved students more quickly through developmental English requirements. Students in the program group were more likely to take and pass the college’s English skills assessment tests that are required for graduation or transfer.

The evidence is mixed about whether the program increased persistence in college. Initially the program did not change the rate at which students reenrolled. At the end of the report’s follow-up period, however, slightly more program group members than control group members attended college.

Visher, M., Schneider, S., Wathington, H., & Collado, H. (2010). Scaling up learning communities: The experience of six community colleges. New York: National Center for Postsecondary Research. Retrieved from: http://knowledgecenter.completionbydesign.org/resource/77

This report examining the necessary components to build and maintain strong learning community programs at community colleges is the first from the national Learning Communities Demonstration, a longitudinal study of six community colleges. At this early stage, and with the range of implementation, the report cannot fully assess the impact of learning communities on student achievement; it does, however, highlight the requirements for scaling up a strong learning community program.

Visher, M., & Wathington, H. (2010). Learning communities for students in developmental reading: An impact study at Hillsborough Community College. New York: National Center for Postsecondary Research. Retrieved from: http://www.postsecondaryresearch.org/i/a/document/13809_ATD_Hillsborough_FULL_REVISED.pdf

This report presents results from a rigorous random assignment study of a basic learning community program at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa Bay, Florida. Hillsborough is one of six community colleges participating in the National Center for Postsecondary Research’s Learning Communities Demonstration. The demonstration’s focus is on determining whether learning communities are an effective strategy for helping students who need developmental education. Hillsborough’s learning communities co-enrolled groups of around 20 students into a developmental reading course and a “college success” course. Three cohorts of students (fall 2007, spring 2008, and fall 2008) participated in the study, for a total of 1,071. The findings show that:

The most salient feature of the learning communities implemented at Hillsborough was the co-enrollment of students into linked courses, creating student cohorts.

The learning communities at Hillsborough became more comprehensive over the course of the study. In particular, curricular integration and faculty collaboration were generally minimal at the start of the study, but increased over time.

Overall (for the full study sample), Hillsborough’s learning communities program did not have a meaningful impact on students’ academic success.

Corresponding to the maturation of the learning communities program, evidence suggests that the program had positive impacts on some educational outcomes for the third (fall 2008) cohort of students.


Weissman, E., Butcher, K.F., Schneider, E., Teres, J., Collado, H., Greenberg, D., & Welbeck, R. (2011). Learning communities for students in developmental math: Impact studies at Queensborough and Houston Community Colleges. New York: National Center for Postsecondary Research, Teachers College, Columbia University.
Queensborough Community College and Houston Community College are two large, urban institutions that offer learning communities for their developmental math students, with the goals of accelerating students’ progress through the math sequence and of helping them to perform better in college and ultimately earn degrees or certificates. At Queensborough, classes in all levels of developmental math were linked primarily with college-level classes, and at Houston, the lowest level of developmental math was linked with the college’s student success class, designed to prepare students for the demands of college. A total of 1,034 students at Queensborough and 1,273 students at Houston entered the study between 2007 and 2009.

The key findings presented in this report are:

Both Queensborough and Houston began by implementing a basic model of a one semester developmental math learning community; the programs strengthened over the course of the demonstration by including more curricular integration and some connections to student support services.

Learning community students attempted and passed their developmental math class at higher rates at both colleges.

In the semesters following students’ participation in the program, impacts on developmental math progress were far less evident. By the end of the study period (three semesters total at Queensborough and two at Houston), control group members at both colleges had largely caught up with learning community students in the developmental math sequence.

On average, neither college’s learning communities program had an impact on persistence in college or cumulative credits earned.

Back to top

Assessment and Placement

Hodara, M., Jaggars S., & Karp, M. (2012). Improving developmental education assessment and placement: Lessons from community colleges across the country (CCRC Working Paper No. 51). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Collection.asp?cid=20

Using evidence from seven states, this paper describes a variety of approaches used to improve poor course placement accuracy and inconsistent standards associated with the traditional assessment and placement process at community colleges. The authors find that comprehensive change to assessment and placement is rare; when it does occur, it results from changes to developmental education as a whole. The paper concludes with recommendations for improving assessment and placement.

Hughes, K.L., & Scott-Clayton, J. (2011). Assessing developmental assessment in community colleges (CCRC Working Paper No. 19, Assessment of Evidence Series). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?UID=856

Placement exams are high-stakes assessments that determine many students’ college trajectories. The majority of community colleges use placement exams – most often the ACCUPLACER, developed by the College Board, or the COMPASS, developed by ACT, Inc. – to sort students into college-level or developmental education courses in math, reading, and sometimes writing. More than half of entering students at community colleges are placed into developmental education in at least one subject as a result. But the evidence on the predictive validity of these tests is not as strong as many might assume, given the stakes involved – and recent research fails to find evidence that the resulting placements into remediation improve student outcomes.

While this has spurred debate about the content and delivery of remedial coursework, it is possible that the assessment process itself may be broken; the debate about remediation policy is incomplete without a fuller understanding of the role of assessment. This paper examines the extent of consensus regarding the role of developmental assessment and how it is best implemented, the validity of the most common assessments currently in use, and emerging directions in assessment policy and practice. Alternative methods of assessment – particularly those involving multiple measures of student preparedness – seem to have the potential to improve student outcomes, but more research is needed to determine what type of change in assessment and placement policy might improve persistence and graduation rates. The paper concludes with a discussion of gaps in the literature and implications for policy and research.

Lefly, D. Lovell, C. & O’Brien, J. (2011). Shining a light on college remediation in Colorado: The predictive utility of the ACT and the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP). Denver: Colorado Department of Education. (ED519768)

The purpose of this study was to examine postsecondary readiness for 17,499 Colorado students by exploring the congruence between middle school and high school state assessment results (Colorado State Assessment Program) from 2007, ACT results from 2008 and the need for remediation for Colorado students who graduated from high school in the spring of 2009 and entered a Colorado postsecondary institution in fall 2009. By examining the assessment results for these students from as early as the sixth grade, it was clear that if students were not proficient on the state assessment in sixth grade, they were likely to require remediation in their first year of college. If middle school teachers would analyze the state assessment data for this purpose they would be better able to identify which students are very likely be postsecondary ready and which students are not. Also teachers could use the assessment results to target the academic skills of struggling students early in middle school to focus on preparing them to be postsecondary ready. The eighth grade results could be used to gauge how successful the middle and K-8 schools have been in moving students toward Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness (PWR). High schools could use the data from the middle school years to target incoming ninth graders who are not yet proficient on the state assessment. More precise use of state assessment data could focus educators on the ultimate goal of developing postsecondary- and workforce-ready students in all grades, not just those for which graduation is rapidly approaching.

Venezia, A., Bracco, K. R., & Nodine, T. (2010). One-shot deal? Students’ perceptions of assessment and course placement in California’s community colleges. San Francisco: WestEd. Retrieved from: http://www.wested.org/online_pubs/OneShotDeal.pdf

This research study began with two main objectives: to describe current assessment and
placement-related policies and practices at community colleges across the California and to provide a voice for students in describing their experiences leading up to and during community college with regard to assessment and placement. Those two components provided useful points of comparison and allowed us to identify areas where community college policies and practices are falling short in terms of their key purpose – student support.

Back to top

Student Support

Bean, J., et al. (2001-2002). The psychology underlying successful retention practices. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 3(1), 73-89.

This article describes the psychological processes that lead to academic and social integration based on a retention model proposed by the authors. Describes how successful retention programs such as learning communities, freshman interest groups, tutoring, and orientation rely on psychological processes. Four psychological theories form the basis for recommendations: attitude-behavior, coping behavioral (approach-avoidance), self-efficacy, and attribution (locus of control).

Boylan, H. (2009) Targeted intervention for developmental education students (T.I.D.E.S.). Journal of Developmental Education, 32 (3), 14-18, 20, 22-23. Retrieved from: http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/EJ868669.pdf

This manuscript proposes a theoretical model that provides an alternative for assessing, advising, and placing underprepared students in colleges and universities. It advocates combining cognitive and affective assessment data along with information about students’ personal circumstances to make more precise placement decisions via advising that targets both course and service recommen-dations. The article also includes a detailed description of the model and how it might be implemented. The assumption underlying this model is that although the traditional practice of placing students into remedial courses based on a single cut score on a cognitive assessment instrument is efficient, it is not necessarily ef-fective. The use of the alternative model, re-ferred to as “Targeted Interventions for De-velopmental Education Students,” should en-able institutions to place their underprepared students more accurately and serve them more effectively.

Boylan, H., Bliss, L., & Bonham, B. (1997). Program components and their relationship to student success. Journal of Developmental Education, 20(3), 2-8.

Centralized program organization, mandatory assessment, mandatory placement, tutoring, advising, and program evaluation have been mentioned most frequently as effective components of a developmental program. As part of the National Study of Developmental Education several of these components were explored to determine their relationship to such measures as first-term GPA, cumulative GPA, retention, and performance in developmental courses. All of these components were found to have some relationship to the success measures being studied. Centralized program organization, tutoring with tutor training and systematic program evaluation were found to be related to the highest number of success measures.

Center for Community College Engagement. (2012). A matter of degrees: promising practices for community college student success (A First Look). Austin, TX: The University of Texas at Austin, Community College Leadership Program. Retrieved from: http://www.ccsse.org/docs/Matter_of_Degrees.pdf

This report describes 13 promising practices in community colleges. Over the next three years, the Center will conduct additional data analysis, hold focus groups with students and faculty members, and continue the review of efforts under way in community colleges. This work will contribute significant new knowledge about high-impact educational practices and how they are associated with student engagement, persistence, and completion in community colleges.

Dweck, C. (2010, Dec. 11). Mindset interview. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICILzbB1Obg

Dweck outlines the premise that a student’s mindset affects his/her learning.

Dweck, C. (2006) Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.

The world is divided between people who are open to learning and those who are closed to it, and this trait affects everything from your worldview to your interpersonal relationships. Dweck addresses the ways that mindsets have an impact on people. She explains that you can have a closed mindset in regard to some traits and an open mindset in regard to others. The thought-provoking insight comes from learning when you need to adjust your mindset to move ahead. The author extends her basic point by viewing all areas of human relationships through the prism of mindset

Karp, M.M. (2011). Toward a new understanding of non-academic student support: four mechanisms encouraging positive student outcomes in the community college (CCRC Working Paper No. 28, Assessment of Evidence Series). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?UID=860

Despite their best efforts, community colleges continue to see low rates of student persistence and degree attainment, particularly among academically vulnerable students. While it is likely that academic interventions need to be reformed to increase their efficacy, another partial explanation for these low success rates is that students have other needs that are not being met. This paper examines programs and practices that appear to address these needs by providing non-academic support in order to encourage student success.

A review of the literature on non-academic support yields evidence of four mechanisms by which such supports can improve student outcomes: (1) creating social relationships, (2) clarifying aspirations and enhancing commitment, (3) developing college know-how, and (4) addressing conflicting demands of work, family and college. Identifying these mechanisms allows for a deeper understanding of both the functioning of promising interventions and the conditions that may lead students to become integrated into college life. Notably, each of these mechanisms can occur within a variety of programs, structures, or even informal interactions. The paper concludes by discussing avenues for further research and immediate implications for community colleges.

Karp, M. Bickerstaff, S. Rucks-Ahidiana, Z., Bork, R., Barragan, M., & Edgecombe, N. (2012). College 101 courses for applied learning and student success (CCRC Working Paper No. 49). New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center. Retrieved from: http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?UID=1142

Using interview, observational, and documentation data, the authors of this study investigated College 101 courses at three community colleges in Virginia. Although the authors found strong evidence of the worth and promise of College 101 courses, contextual factors made implementation challenging and undermined the courses’ potential to create long-lasting impacts. College 101 courses provided students with important information but offered few opportunities for in-depth exploration and skill-building practice. The authors suggest that College 101 courses may lead to positive long-term outcomes if they are optimized to include pedagogies that promote applied learning, contextualization, reflection, and deliberate practice.

Lumina Foundation for Education. (2005). Paths to persistence: An analysis of research on program effectiveness at community colleges. Indianapolis, IN: Lumina Foundation. Retrieved from: http://www.luminafoundation.org/publications/PathstoPersistence.pdf

This report presents a critical analysis of the state of the research on the effectiveness of four types of practices in increasing persistence and completion at community colleges: 1) advising, counseling, mentoring and orientation programs; 2) learning communities; 3) developmental education and other services for academically underprepared students; and 4) college-wide reform. We use this analysis to draw substantive lessons about effective institutional practices, to identify promising areas for future research, to evaluate the state of program-effectiveness research at community colleges, and to make recommendations for improving related research.

Zeidenberg, M., Jenkins , D. & Calcagno, J. (2007). Do student success courses actually help community college students succeed? (CCRC Brief No. 36). New York: Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University. Retrieved from: http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?UID=667

This Brief reports the recent findings of an in-depth CCRC study on the relationship between enrollment in student success courses and successful outcomes, including credential completion, persistence, and transfer. Using a large dataset on Florida community college students, researchers used statistical models to see if student success courses still appear to be related to positive outcomes even after controlling for student characteristics and other factors that might also influence the relative success of students who take such courses.

Back to top