Three key insights from our research on developmental English

Topics: Community College, Developmental and Remedial Education, Student Retention and Success

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1. Developmental English is a pressing national concern

Last fall, the Community College Executive Forum research team released a white paper on Developmental English in response to members’ calls for additional guidance. Community colleges are experimenting with an array of redesigns in response to high rates of developmental education placement and low rates of student completion.

This publication covers three critical elements of redesign—administrative, programmatic, and pedagogical—that colleges can undertake to boost student success in developmental English courses.

2. Urge students to prepare for placement assessments

Over the past year, our research team conducted Enrollment Pain Point Audits at over 30 member campuses (secret shopping exercises in which our researchers attempted to enroll in colleges). During these exercises, we often had the opportunity to take placement exams, including COMPASS, ACCUPLACER, and PERT, to name a few. Our research team was struck by the messages we received from college staff about the importance and purpose of the placement exam. We observed staff diminishing the importance of the assessments in an attempt to alleviate any testing anxiety students may experience. Unfortunately, this gives students the impression that the assessment has minimal bearing on their academic futures or the cost of their education.

Explaining the purpose of the placement test and how to study can save students hundreds of dollars in developmental education tuition costs. Colleges should emphasize the importance of placement testing and share study resources to ensure that all students have the opportunity to perform at their best on the assessments.

3. Integrate developmental English into college department

Colleges should allocate administrative responsibility for developmental English to the college English department and maintain central administrative oversight of all developmental education courses. Research contacts suggest that the benefits of the integrated organizational model impact both the student and the college. While the college reduces administrative costs by centralizing oversight of all developmental courses, students complete courses that align with the department’s college-level material.

Considerations to set organizational home for developmental English
EAB survey of community college administrators