By: Abby E. Ryan (for Almy Education)
Research has indicated that college and university developmental math programs, as they currently are, produce poor results with low student success rates. To address this, state legislators are intervening, creating policies that range from support for reform to mandated approaches. As a response, states and institutions are exploring ways to improve these programs. They are doing so by lessening the time students spend in developmental education to enhancing instruction and curriculum. With many attempts that produced short-term solutions, states, such as the ones below, are implementing longer-term solutions for student outcomes.
In this post, let’s look at a few states executing developmental education practices through laws or mandates.
California’s Assembly Bill 705
In 2017, California Legislature collectively passed Assembly Bill 705, which improves community college placement and remediation in English and math. AB 705 requires colleges to depend on students’ high school grades for placement over standardized tests. “The core legal standard is that colleges must maximize the probability that a student will enter and complete transfer-level coursework in English and mathematics within a one-year time frame. To deny students access to transfer-level English and math, colleges must meet a two-part evidentiary bar.” First, they must prove that a student is unlikely to be successful in the class. Secondly, they must prove that starting a remedial class will improve their likelihood of completing a transfer-level course.
According to “Still Getting There,” the December 2020 California Acceleration Project, “Statewide, 78% of first-time math students enrolled in transfer-level courses in fall 2019. These changes produced dramatic increases in completion across the system. In fall 2019, over twice as many students completed transfer-level English and math as did a few years earlier. In California, one-term completion of transfer-level courses increased from 14% to 40% in math.” What that means is that over 31,000 students completed the transfer-level math requirements.
As documented in last year’s Getting There II, a statewide progress report on the implementation of AB 705, colleges made significant changes in anticipation of AB 705. They provided more transfer-level classes, cut back their remedial offerings, and built new corequisite models, allowing for transfer-level classes with added support.
The analysis from Getting There II reveals, “Colleges have approximately doubled the proportion of transfer-level classes they offer, and there’s been dramatic growth in the number of colleges offering corequisite remediation.” Despite this advancement, the report distinguishes “several areas of weak implementation that will need further attention from the colleges, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, and possibly the State Legislature.”
Connecticut’s Public Act 12-40
According to this report by The Connecticut State Colleges & Universities, “Passed after the 2012 legislative session, Connecticut Public Act No. 12-40: An Act Concerning College Readiness and Completion (referred to as PA 12-40) aimed to increase the rate of gateway course completion, speed time to completion, and reduce the cost of completion for the developmental student population, thereby eliminating the progress and success gaps between developmental and college-ready students.” The Connecticut Community Colleges (CCCs) implemented PA 12-40 across all 12 of its colleges, starting in Fall 2014 after a short pilot program in the Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 semesters.
The general levels of courses include:
- College-level with embedded support (example: turning the remedial content into a corequisite rather than a prerequisite)
- An intensive College Readiness Program or one semester of a remedial course.
The law requires that a student’s readiness for an entry-level course be based on multiple measures. This means that placement will be determined by other factors instead of an SAT or Accuplacer score.
According to a recent report by the Connecticut State Board of Education, the number of high school graduates enrolled in remedial courses at Connecticut’s regional universities or community colleges has declined significantly from 2010-2016. In fact, “of the approximately 13,500 students from the graduating class of 2016, who enrolled in one of the four Connecticut State Universities or a Connecticut community college within 16 months of graduation, over 41 percent took a remedial course within the first two years of enrollment; this is down from nearly 50 percent six years earlier.”
Recently, in May 2021, the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Board of Regents approved the Alignment and Completion of Math and English (ACME) policy to improve outcomes for community college students drastically. ACME removes enrollment and completion obstacles, bolsters last-minute supports, and gives students a more transparent path to progress. “Despite our best efforts, pass rates for college-level math and English have not risen beyond 23%,” says Merle Harris, Academic and Student Affairs committee chair. “These rates drop to 14% and 20% for our Black and Latinx students, respectively. The ACME policy is a clear investment in increasing student success – moving from a system that prioritizes standardized test scores over known achievement and from the lengthy, less effective, prerequisite model to a corequisite model.”
Florida’s Senate Bill 720
In 2013, the Florida Legislature passed a solid reform to developmental education. Senate Bill 1720 (SB 1720) lifted the college placement test requirement for recent high school graduates, letting them choose whether or not they wanted to take developmental courses. The bill specified that those courses be taught in one of four instructional modes: compressed, modularized, corequisite, or contextualized. It also asked institutions to implement enhanced student advising and support services customized to students’ needs.
In Inside Higher Education’s article, “Developmental Education Reform Improved Passing Rates,” we learn that these exercises have expanded the number of students taking and passing general education requirements in both math and English. In fact, a study published by the Educational Researcher shows a comparison of groups pre-and post-reform. “Cohorts after the reform were more likely to enroll and pass introductory college-level courses in their first year of college.”
Illinois’ House Bill 2170
On March 8, 2021, Governor JB Pritzker signed into law House Bill 2170 (also known as the Education Omnibus Bill and the Education and Workforce Equity Act). HB 2170 includes various provisions to decrease racial gaps (in both opportunity and achievement) that unfortunately exist in Illinois’ education system. Other plans involve enhancing College and Career Pathways and emphasizing strategic early college credit to quicken students’ postsecondary success. Furthermore, HB 2170 examines actions addressing teacher deficits, increased educator diversity, elevated access to early childhood education, and the addition of Black history into the American History curriculum.
Part of HB 2170 includes the Developmental Education Reform Act, which contains significant provisions in improving student placement and models in delivering developmental education. In addition, it directs all community colleges to embrace the supported Multiple Measures Placement policy generated by the Illinois Council of Community College Presidents (ICCCP) in 2018. While many community colleges have implemented some part of it, a requirement to implement and publicize current community college placement policies will help inspire greater consistency for students to operate the system. One recommendation is to complete a transitional course as a valid placement measure.
This new legislation comes after the 2016 Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act which aims to reduce high school graduates entering developmental math and English. HB 2170 extends this work, expanding it to any entering college freshmen. With the implementation of this most recent bill, there should be a significant change to college completion rates and the number of students requiring remediation, beginning in 2024-2025.
Texas’ House Bill 2223
The Texas House Bill 2223 was signed into law in June 2017, mandating that all statewide public higher education institutions develop and implement corequisite models to deliver developmental education.
Specifically, HB 2223 requires that a certain percentage of underprepared students be enrolled in developmental education and reported as using a corequisite model. This “allows the student to enroll in the entry-level college course but requires co-enrollment in a developmental education course/intervention designed to support the student’s successful completion of the college-level course.” These percentages are as follows: fall 2018, 25%; fall 2019, 50%; fall 2020, 75%.
While not all states are using mandates, states like Colorado and Washington are still making broad changes.
Colorado statute mandates developmental education (DE) be provided when students require it. By fall 2022, only two-year and four-year institutions can implement prerequisite developmental education (DE), with 10% or less in prerequisites and the balance through corequisite gateway courses. Through the mandate, higher education institutions can create local policies that allow students to refuse DE placement.
For placement, these institutions are required to use a higher standardized test score or another measure (other than a test score) and incorporate student advising at the onset of the placement process.
While Washington state doesn’t have an official state policy, state statute directs the Washington Student Achievement Council to work with universities and the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (WSBCTC) to back multiple measures for pre-college developmental education course placement. Students with college-ready HS Smarter Balanced Assessment scores are deemed college-ready at all public institutions of higher education. Those who are not considered to be college-ready can take a HS Bridge to College course.
What can we learn from this?
For decades, colleges, and more specifically, faculty, had almost complete control over curriculum, policies, and sequences in developmental math. When success rates in individual courses were average or low, many colleges worked to reform individual courses and even full sequences. For years, the term “redesign” was the hot topic at conferences with faculty and administrators working to find solutions that would work on their campus. The reality has been, unfortunately, that the needle didn’t move enough with success. Sometimes a course pass rate would increase significantly, but the overall rate of students getting through a college-level math course was abysmal.
To make real and significant improvements, it takes real and significant change. Those types of changes are hard to come by. Politics, history, culture, and inertia work against the kind of broad reform needed, including at the policy level. The result has been legislatures and state groups intervening and passing broad, required reforms, usually involving multiple measures placement and corequisite remediation. Often, the number of semesters a student can be in developmental education is limited.
While it’s frustrating to educators being told how to teach (especially from those who don’t work in education), the intentions are often sincere, and the outcomes are often positive. Everyone wants to see more students succeed in college, and increasing equity is a near-universal goal. But there isn’t broad agreement on exactly how to make that happen, even though there are trends (e.g., corequisite remediation). The states that build in some flexibility and encourage educators to make decisions are more likely to see progress and less opposition.
What Almy Education is doing with legislation
Having worked to implement legislation across Illinois, Kathleen and several of her faculty consultants are experienced at what implementation looks like on the ground. Like the Farmer’s Insurance commercials say, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” We regularly work with colleges and universities to help them meet legislative mandates at the planning, implementation, data analysis, or maintenance levels. Email us if you’d like to set up a call to talk about your situation.