For too many community college students, developmental (remedial) education becomes an unnecessarily difficult barrier to cross, particularly low-income students and students who have returned to school after a long absence. Nearly six out of 10 community college students need at least one developmental course, and fewer than a quarter of these earn a certificate or degree within eight years. Many quit before ever getting to credit-bearing courses. Those numbers represent the lives of thousands of people who wanted to work toward a brighter future, but didn't even make it to the starting line.
The Developmental Education Initiative, created by MDC in association with Achieving the Dream and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation, is an effort at 15 colleges and six states to find ways to make developmental education more effective, more efficient—or unnecessary altogether. That reduces the students' financial burden and increases the likelihood they'll stay in school. From 2009-2012, these colleges and states worked individually and as a peer network to address these challenges. In 2013, the final year of the grant, MDC focused on disseminating the lessons from these efforts.
- To remove institutional roadblocks, speed-up classes, improve support services, and make instruction more effective in developmental education classes at community colleges
- To develop state-level strategies to collect reliable data about student outcomes, allocate funds that support broad adoption of successful models, and implement policies that encourage improvements (DEI state policy work was led by Jobs for the Future.)
- To identify the resources, policies, and practices necessary to expand effective practices
- To share lessons from DEI colleges and states with community colleges across the country
- Colleges scaled-up successful practices: Zane State College's intensive advising program serves every developmental education student and helped raise student retention rates to as high as 96 percent; El Paso Community College now serves more than 3,000 students each semester in the Pre-testing Retesting Educational Preparation (PREP) program. Many students advance at least one remediation level—and some more than one—reducing the number of courses they'll take before advancing to credit-bearing work.
- States invested in data-driven improvement and investment: Florida developed a student success dashboard to make student results more visible to state and local decision-makers; the North Carolina Community College System redesigned developmental math curricula and delivery for all 58 colleges in the state.
- In March 2012, MDC released More to Most, a guidebook to help community colleges scale up effective practices; the guide draws heavily on DEI college and state experiences.
- In 2013, MDC published What We Know, a two-volume set that includes a synthesis of key lessons for implementation of successful dev ed reforms, and a reflection from DEI college presidents on what it takes to create and sustain systemic change.
- In late 2013, we will release, in partnership with Achieving the Dream, three practitioner briefs, illustrating successful implementation of developmental education reform at scale.