Thread 3

Posted on September 18, 2018


Part 1         Part 2           Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6

So:   what is the current state of developmental education?   According to Hunter Boylan:

“If the only thing that you are offering your students is a course in pre-algebra, then it is probably a remedial course. If you are offering a course in pre-algebra that is supported by counseling, tutoring, and advising, where the course is taught according to principles of how adults learn and develop then that is a developmental course. I often say that we don’t know whether developmental education works or not. Most institutions haven’t tried it yet.”  (emphasis added)

Levine-Brown P, Anthony S. The Current State of Developmental Education: An Interview with Hunter R. Boylan. Journal Of Developmental Education [serial online]. Fall2017 2017;41(1):18-22

(Obvious to me:   adults learn and develop when the content is somewhere near their zone of proximal development or, in less technical terms, if it’s content that they have the background knowledge necessary for understanding.)

Next tweet:

Another article questioning the actual value of developmental math.

Quarles C, Davis M. Is Learning in Developmental Math Associated With Community College Outcomes?. Community College Review [serial online]. January 2017;45(1):33.

“ Results: After controlling for grades in previous classes, procedural algebra skills were not associated with higher grades in college-level math. Conceptual mathematics proficiency was associated with higher grades in general education math but not in precalculus. In developmental classes, however, learning gains were primarily procedural, which were correlated with grades…Instruction focused on procedural skills may not be preparing students for college mathematics.

This article at least recognizes that developmental math is generally taught procedurally.   It didn’t, to my disappointment, explore the value of actually *teaching* concepts.

Next tweet:

No, since things aren’t working:   why not just speed it up and add help and support.

An article exploring interventions across Texas:

Weisburst E, Daugherty L, Miller T, Martorell P, Cossairt J. Innovative Pathways Through Developmental Education and Postsecondary Success: An Examination of Developmental Math Interventions Across Texas. Journal Of Higher Education [serial online]. March 2017;88(2):183-209.

Things look reasonably good:

  • The relationship between both interventions and student outcomes was generally positive. …students in this intervention had approximately 4% higher DE math pass rates in their initial DE math course in their first semester, 1% higher propensities to take and pass an FCL math course within a year, 4% higher persistence for the 1st year of study, and 2% higher persistence to the 2nd year of study. “

  • Total increase:  …” Students in DE student success courses had 7.5% higher DE math pass rates, 12% higher 1-year FCL enrollment, 12% higher 1-year FCL pass rates, and 9.5% (8%) higher 1 (2)-year persistence rates. These results are particularly striking given that the population of students in DE student success courses had lower college readiness prior to enrolling in the intervention.

Also, this:

 …Relative to similar students not enrolled in short DE math courses, these students were 12% more likely to pass their DE math course (24% above mean pass rates), and they were 2% more likely to take and pass an FCL math course within a year (33% above mean enrollment rates and 36% above mean pass rates). …However, students in these courses had 0.7% higher 2-year graduation rates (37% greater than mean graduation rates).

That seems good but… looking at the statistics closely:

Despite the nice sounding relative increases… 7.8 % of students who took the success course went on to pass a “first college level” math course, vs. 7.5% who didn’t take the course.

92.2%  of the students still failed.

The relative decrease in failure — 0.43%.

I remembered this and realized it hadn’t made the tweetstorm (or Powerpoint), and added it.

Better results from California:

Hern K, Snell M. The California Acceleration Project: Reforming Developmental Education to Increase Student Completion of College-Level Math and English. New Directions For Community Colleges[serial online]. Fall2014 2014;2014(167):27-39.


6% of students beginning 3 or more levels below college math go on to complete a college level math course.

More than half of all Black and Latino community college students place there

Acceleration w/ support “far exceeded goals” – 4.5 times as likely to succeed.

Still, none of the success rates were above 40%.

Another “reform approach:   Do we even need the algebra?

Three Year Effects of Corequisite Remediation with College Level Statistics/

  • Students were given the option of taking college level statistics with intensive support.
  • Sudents were tracked for subsequent 3 years.
  • In all categories such as success in future math courses, number of credit hours successfully completed, and graduation rate, the “Stats with support” folks were more successful.

“More successful” was 56% passing the Stats course vs. 39% passing the “remedial algebra” course.

Students with Arithmetic placement were not included.  What about them?

Here’s one more “successful” path:

Fong K, Melguizo T, Prather G. Increasing Success Rates in Developmental Math: The Complementary Role of Individual and Institutional Characteristics. Research In Higher Education [serial online]. November 2015;56(7):719-749.  higherEdPathsSuccessFong

Of course, if you apply your business math “chain discount” math to this, you discern that from the Arithmetic level, 6.6% of students pass a gateway course; from Pre-algebra, 11.7%; from Elementary Algebra, 27.6% and from INtermediate Algebra, 54.3%.

The article didn’t provide those stats.

This is big enough already… end of Part 3.

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