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What We Know: Lessons From the Developmental Education Initiative

States and colleges in the Developmental Education Initiative (DEI) completed their grant program last December. While they are all moving ahead with many of their expanded developmental education efforts, we took some time to look back on what we’ve all learned over the past three years about scaling up successful innovations and the importance of strong leadership at the top. In a two-part publication, What We Know, MDC lifts up the successes of the DEI colleges from the perspective of presidents and project directors. The two pieces are summarized here and the full publications are available below:

What We Know: Reflections from Developmental Education Initiative Presidents

Edited by Madeline Patton


The Developmental Education Initiative asked 15 college leaders to take what they’d learned in early Achieving the Dream efforts and apply that to the challenge of scaling up: what resources, policies, and practices are essential to scaling up effective developmental education efforts? Finding ways to move more students through developmental education more quickly—or bypass it altogether—while maintaining successful student outcomes required leadership and commitment from every level of the organization. In this essay collection, the presidents of the 15 DEI colleges reflect on what they learned about building, embedding, and maintaining systemic change in their institutions—particularly in the difficult field of developmental education—through work with their trustees, students, faculty, staff, and community. They discuss how they and their colleges took on identifying successful innovations and scaling them up in the midst of leadership transitions, serious reductions in financial resources, and major changes in organizational structure.


What We Know: Lessons from the Developmental Education Initiative

In February 2012, MDC convened DEI college teams composed of faculty, administrators, and presidents. We mixed them up—different colleges, different states, different roles—and asked them to create the ideal path for underprepared students to get from college entry to credential completion. Drawing on their collective knowledge, particularly what they’d learned during DEI, the teams considered four points of interaction with students or potential students: early intervention and access, advising and support services, developmental education instruction, and alignment with credential and degree programs. Six teams and six hours later, we had six designs that displayed a remarkable amount of consensus about the programs, policies, and institutional supports needed to help any student be successful on the path from college enrollment to credential completion. This piece synthesizes our DEI college teams’ recommended best program bets and related critical institutional policies for helping all students succeed at what they set out to accomplish in community college.