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Developmental Education Initiative


The Developmental Education Initiative, created by MDC in association with Achieving the Dream and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation, was an effort at 15 colleges and six states to find ways to make developmental education more effective, more efficient—or unnecessary altogether. 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. From 2009-2012, these colleges and states worked individually and as a peer network to address these challenges. The colleges worked to remove institutional roadblocks, speed-up classes, improve support services, and make instruction more effective in developmental education classes at community colleges. States developed 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.)

MDC synthesized lessons from colleges and states to inform a guidebook on scaling up effective community college programs, More to Most. In 2013, the final year of the grant, MDC focused on disseminating the lessons from these efforts in What We Know, a two-volume set that includes a synthesis of key lessons for implementation of successful developmental education reforms, and a reflection from DEI college presidents on what it takes to create and sustain systemic change. In February 2014, Right from the Start was released, a four-part series produced in partnership with Achieving the Dream. The practitioner-focused, evidence-based briefs spotlight successful developmental education reform efforts at seven Achieving the Dream colleges.

  • 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.

Go Deeper:

For more information on MDC and Developmental Education Initiative, contact: Abby Parcell.