Over the past nearly three years, higher education observers have chronicled a litany of disturbing trends in community colleges and other broad access institutions: falling enrollmentwidening disparities in outcomes by race, student and faculty disengagement exacerbated by remote instruction, and concern about the impact of learning loss. In this challenging time, how can community colleges deliver on their promise to students of an affordable pathway to a degree or credential and a fulfilling career?

Countering these disturbing trends will take significant investment in and restructuring of public higher ed. But among the uncertainties and frustrations, there is one area where both the need for change and the path forward are clear: developmental education.

Proven Practices

In a new report, the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness—a partnership of MDRC and the Community College Research Center—synthesized a decade of research on developmental education. We distilled the research into five evidence-based principles institutions can use to guide the implementation, expansion, and refinement of developmental reform efforts:

  1. Grant students access to college-level math and English courses through reforms to assessment and placement practices and course structures.
  2. Provide targeted and tiered supports, such as corequisite support courses, tutoring, and advising, to address students’ academic and nonacademic needs.
  3. Employ contextualized curriculum and student-centered pedagogy, which engages students in authentic tasks like those they will encounter throughout college.
  4. Use equity-minded approaches for design and implementation that meet the needs of Black, Latinx, and other historically marginalized populations.
  5. Implement developmental education reforms alongside reforms that address multiple barriers to student success and span students’ entire time in college to improve long-term outcomes such as degree completion.

Read the full article about developmental education by Erika B. Lewy, Susan Bickerstaff, and Katie Beal[u'MDRC_News'] at MDRC.