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Right from the Start: An Institutional Perspective on Developmental Education Reform

Broad access to quality education and training is essential to a robust economy and an engaged society. With affordable tuition and campuses in big cities and small towns, community colleges make that education and training accessible to thousands of citizens every year. MDC and Achieving the Dream developed the Right from the Start series of practitioner-focused, evidence-based briefs to highlight strategies that support the significant number of students who arrive on campus underprepared for credit-bearing coursework. Serving these students, who often undertake adult basic education and developmental education courses, is an important part of the community college dual mission of access and success.

Right from the Start: Series Overview

This overview introduces Right from the Start: An Institutional Perspective on Developmental Education Reform, a series of three practitioner briefs on developmental education. Created by Achieving the Dream and MDC, the briefs spotlight successful reform efforts in developmental education at seven Achieving the Dream colleges.

Right from the Start: Adopting and Adapting Compression Strategies

This brief summarizes efforts to reform developmental education at Zane State College and the Community College of Baltimore County. Focused on accelerating student success and progress, the two schools pursued distinctive approaches to reform that aligned with their institutional missions and student populations. Recognizing that the majority of its students will not succeed with only “skill and drill” work on academics, Zane State pursued a holistic, student-centered approach to help students build academic, social, and cultural skills; that work is detailed here. Supplementary information is provided about the work at the Community College of Baltimore County, which focused on its landmark Accelerated Learning Program. The two reforms can both be categorized as compression strategies. At Zane, compression means shortening the overall duration of a course but maintaining the same number of instructional hours; at CCBC, the compression strategy pairs two courses with complementary content, which students take simultaneously.

Right from the Start: Adopting and Adapting Computer-Assisted Learning Strategies

Three community colleges—El Paso Community College, Bunker Hill Community College, and Patrick Henry Community College—incorporated technology into the curriculum to support student progress in mathematics through developmental education. Each college took its own path: El Paso developed a self-accelerated emporium-style computer lab, Patrick Henry incorporated fully modularized math curricula, and Bunker Hill’s contextualized redesign integrated tutoring and skill building. With a comprehensive look at the experience at El Paso Community College and supplementary examples from Bunker Hill Community College and Patrick Henry Community College, we begin to understand how colleges can enact effective reforms in developmental education that are uniquely appropriate to their institutions.

Right from the Start: Adopting and Adapting Contextualization Strategies

As described in this brief, Tacoma Community College and South Texas College each focused on contextualization as a cornerstone of developmental education reform, albeit with different approaches. With a comprehensive look at the experience at Tacoma Community College and a supplementary example from South Texas College, we begin to understand how colleges can enact effective reforms in developmental education that are uniquely appropriate to their institutions.