A report from the Southern Education Foundation reveals that minority and low-income students exposed to altered teaching and learning models in their remedial coursework have better retention rates, graduation rates, and test scores than students learning in typical developmental course models.
The report is part of a five-year study analyzing several historically black and Hispanic-serving institutions, including Claflin University and Morgan State University, which piloted five different modules of developmental curriculum engagement. According to data, models which either accelerated remedial classes with additional course hours or tutoring, or eliminated remedial work with interdisciplinary courses, helped students to maintain interest, reduce tuition costs, and improved performance.
“As a researcher, you always want to see data demonstrating impact in a positive way,” said Dr.Tiffany Jones, lead author for the report and project director for the initiative. “We know that change takes time, so while I was hoping for positive results, I was surprised at some of the staggering results between students in traditional courses and those in these new offerings. I have been surprised at how big the gaps are, knowing that there is so much work to do.”
Participating institutions were each awarded $50,000 grants based upon submitted proposals to revamp development coursework and to assess outcomes, which were delivered to more than 1,000 students nationwide over the course of the study.
At Claflin, officials combined first-year remedial courses with credit-hour classes in mathematics and English, increased English 101 class time to five days a week and offered more laboratory hours outside of the teaching set. The new programs yielded a lower pass rate in comparison to students outside of the program (88 percent to 99.3), but generated 79 percent pass rate in English 102, compared to 67 percent for non-participants.
Participants at Morgan State took an integrated course in developmental reading, English and history, and reported higher levels of engagement, increased attendance and higher test scores than students taking remedial courses in each subject.
At other institutions, redesigned summer bridge programs and options to test out of developmental courses yielded similar results – a notion that Dr. Jones says could be scaled to serve millions of underserved students with support in policy making and funding.
“Even among minority serving institutions, sometimes leaders depend heavily on their background which tells them a certain kind of student with a certain kind of score is not “ready for a four-year college.” But the startling results also demonstrate for me that students can become ready for college courses a lot quicker than we’ve given them credit for. Efforts like these demonstrates that developmental education may not be the issue, but perhaps the way we are delivering development education. Maybe it is what happens to a student’s confidence when you tell them they aren’t ready. I think this is challenging leaders to think about developmental education differently.”