Texas has launched numerous pilot efforts to increase college success for undergraduate students who are not academically ready for college. Students lacking basic skills in math, reading, and writing must take development education courses before they can pursue college-level coursework. But students taking these courses often drop out and never successfully complete a college-level course due to the time and expense associated with the remedial course sequence.
Texas developmental education students are spending large sums of their college financial resources on non-credit remedial courses. Last year alone, nearly a quarter, or more than 280,000, of all community college students were enrolled in at least one developmental education course, costing an estimated $100.3 million in tuition and fees.[i] Unfortunately, a full 85 percent or 33,400 developmental math students in the 2007 cohort of community college freshmen did not successfully complete a college-level math course within three years, meaning the time and money spent on these classes is largely lost to non-credit coursework and no progress towards a degree.
To improve college completion rates, Texas is testing various strategies to reform the assessment and delivery of developmental education, and effectively place students according to their learning needs. Reform efforts also address faculty development to improve the effectiveness of teaching remedial courses.
This past summer, Complete College America (CCA), awarded $10 million to ten states for the Completion Innovation Challenge grant (CIC), funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. CCA selected Texas to receive a $1 million grant to fund a developmental math program model – FOCUS (Fundamentals of Conceptual Understanding & Success)—designed to move underprepared students through remedial coursework while earning college-level course credit. Fifteen Texas community colleges across the state will participate in the challenge grant to further scale the successful math model. By pairing remedial and college-level math courses and mandatory tutoring, FOCUS has demonstrated improvement in academic performance and time to completion.
Other ongoing efforts include the Developmental Education Initiative (DEI) launched by Achieving the Dream, which promotes community college success. DEI programs have piloted new strategies for delivering developmental education through grants to various Texas campuses, including Coastal Bend College, Houston Community College, El Paso Community College, and South Texas College.
Jobs For the Future outlines the major DEI strategies in Driving Innovation: How Six States are Organizing to Improve Outcomes in Developmental Education. DEI colleges are committed to improving their developmental education initiatives through a data-driven improvement process that supports statewide innovation in the classroom, including assessing students according to their specific level of learning, and developing curriculum and delivery models that address the varying needs of students. Finally, DEI states are engaged in strengthening the state-level policy supports that promote scaling of successful initiatives statewide.
But Texas developmental education reforms are not limited to the DEI colleges. In 2009, the Texas Legislature created campus-based developmental education demonstration projects through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) Budget Rider 50, which required THECB to create pilot programs to improve outcomes for students who are not prepared for college-level coursework. THECB awarded $5 million over two years to five community colleges by identifying best practices for course delivery, assessment and placement policies for incoming students, and faculty development. To continue the demonstration projects, the Legislature provided an additional $4 million for the 2012-13 biennium.
State Policy Developments in the 82nd Legislative Session
The Texas Legislature passed strong developmental education reform legislation to streamline the efforts of Texas colleges and universities, and ensure that institutions base assessment and delivery mechanisms on proven practices.
- SB 162 requires THECB to develop a data-driven, statewide plan for reforms to the developmental education system in Texas. The bill also requires institutions to incorporate diagnostic assessments to determine a student’s specific needs, the use of end-of-course assessments to determine a student’s college readiness, and ongoing training and development for developmental education faculty.
- HB1244 and SB 1564 require THECB to set a single standard, or set of standards for each approved state assessment measure for determining college readiness. The bill also requires institutions to use research-based best practices in the assessment and delivery of developmental education courses. Institutions must also incorporate the appropriate use of technology into developmental education courses based on a student’s individual needs.
- Rider 34 of the Texas budget requires institutions to study the fiscal impact and effectiveness in improving student performance through non-course-based developmental education, which includes important student supports such as academic advising, tutoring, and individualized degree plans for students needing remedial coursework. Non-course-based activities increase the likelihood that a student will advance to college-level coursework more quickly.
So what’s next?
While institutions are applying the best research-based strategies in classrooms across the state, the challenge lies in bringing these projects to scale. Texas is well positioned to bring innovative delivery methods and strong assessment standards to scale through the ongoing work of individual institutions and recent state policy accomplishments that support a statewide plan for developmental education. OpportunityTexas supports strong standards for assessment and delivery of developmental education and recognizes that one size does not fit all. Continued collaboration between THECB and institutions will be the key to successfully implementing new assessment measures, and building in strong non-course-based developmental education activities alongside proven delivery methods.
[i] CPPP Analysis of Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board data on developmental education semester credit hours, and number of unduplicated students enrolled in at least one remedial course. The calculation is based on a statewide average cost of $62.43 per semester credit hour in tuition and fees at Texas’ community colleges in 2010.