Posted on September 3, 2022


Anderson, P., Pribesh, S., & Williams, M. R. (2020). A Matched-Samples Comparison of Pass Rates for Students Coenrolled in Developmental Education and College-Level Math Compared to Similar Non-Coenrolled Students. Community College Enterprise26(2), 24–36.

So! In that special abstract paragraph, big fat yellow flag:

“We found that students who are coenrolled in developmental and college-level math were three times as likely to pass the developmental education course as compared to similar students who took development math alone.”

Are they more likely to pass the college level course? Oops can’t say.

How were they chosen?
They volunteered.

In basic stats class, we learn that getting volunteers for a thing kinda explodes randomness. Who is most likely to sign up for a college level course at the same time as the developmental? Just MAYBE the more confident student? Who already has to have twice as much time b/c it’s a whole other course?

(But, again? More likely to pass the pre-college level course? THat’s the finding?)

Reading through… okay, looks like they are NOT cherry picking their citations

“Campbell and Cintron (2018) found students who attempted accelerated developmental programs successfully completed college-level math at a rate not statistically different than students who chose the traditional developmental program”

(unless, of course, the agenda is to proclaim “all developmental is bad.”)

Nevertheless, early implementer college reforms seem to be leading to gains in student access to transfer-level courses and declines in enrollment in developmental education. The researchers suggested increases in completion of transfer-level courses have occurred for every demographic
group, but equity gaps remain.

This from California — basically says when they don’t require developmental, more people *sign up for* transfer level and *suggests* increases in completion of transfer-level courses. At least they recognize “equity gaps remain” (if I remember right, this was not the *worst* of the ‘well, it got better, but most of ’em failed still!’ examples but it wasn’t good).

Other citations were more general… next paragraph interesting: they picked “developmental,” not “remedial” models. “

Developmental education is the integration of courses and support services guided by
the principles of adult learning (Boylan, 1990). Remediation, however, refers to stand-alone courses addressing precollege-level content.”

Yes, once again there are huge assumptions — I have NO IDEA what they are !! — as far as what this *means.* If it means “no, we skipped the classes where they stuck ’em on ALEKS for whatever they missed,” then … good πŸ˜‰ … except it also means they’re pickin’ the cream of the crop. I can hope it means they’re also skipping the “no, we’re going to drill you in arcane rational function rules before you can take the stats you need to understand psychology research.” Often means we pretend the students don’t need a lot of basic content. But hey, let’s keep reading…

Okay, now for the “students are numbers” part. Gosh, the trad dev ed system is failing students. Some don’t need it. For those who do, co-enrolled might be awesome! Okay, the purpose of this study is to see if it is.

Okay, another flag: it’s “matched sample” — and what did they match?

socioeconomic status (SES), first-generation and minority status, age, sex, location of college, and number of credit hours taken

Missing: how far behind were they? (We’ll see, though… yellow flag, not red.) Nope, not considered at this point, and they state that they coudln’t control who volunteered to enroll; we’ll see if they entertain the rather obvious slant that would provide. They matched 208 developmental and 208 co-enrolled folks.

OK JUST WOW for this line: “

More importantly, only 61% of the sample as a whole passed a developmental math course.

… assuming that it doesn’t mean that 61% in their studyh ALREADY PASSED and they didn’t use that criteria for matching πŸ˜‰ but I have read more laughable things.

They stated that hey, the co-enrolled were THREE TIMES AS LIKELY TO PASS, and the only other significant factor of their matching factors was age. (THat is interesting. Very interesting. HELLO Race and SES didn’t matter???)

But hey, now it’s Discussion tme. Oh, my, my co-enrolling in college was GOOD. For passing the developmental level.

What if there were another way to take twice as much math? That maybe more directly targeted what students needed?

The other article I started reading talked about tutoring and how figuring out individual issues might be important πŸ˜‰

OK YES they recognize that previous achievement in math just might be a factor πŸ˜› but that hey, these were all “developmental” level, so “every student in this was deemed as needing math remediation.”

LOL another little flag: didn’t they say (they did!!) that some students didn’t need it? And didn’t they also say they were NOT involving remedial courses, but developmental ones that were not stand-alone specific skill building courses? But the students needed remediation. The usual “pilot study small sample size” caveat, too.

Implications for practice!

Ewww. Ewww.

As community colleges move away from placement exams, other forms of developmental education such as taking targeted math modules become less feasible. The use of multiple measures is growing nationwide. However, using multiple measures as admission and placement criteria make it harder to pinpoint exact mathematic deficiencies. Coenrollment offers an alternative to the provision of developmental support without the need for a placement exam.

Okay, they do recognize that this “Might not be for everyone,” especially students who are Too Far Behind. (How would we discern that? By getting rid of placement tests, right?)

*** at no point *** not once, zero, zip nada, did they mention that all passing the developmental course means is that they get to take the college level one again. They did not say how many students passed the college level course. NONE of that was mentioned.

I can think of a whole lot of reasons why not.

Also conspicuously absent was … how they did, aside from mentioning that only 61% of them passed. Nope, just that binary analysis sayin’ they were THREE TIMES AS LIKELY TO PASS if they were also taking a whole other math course.