Reengineering Developmental Math

Accelerating Student Success Through High-Return Personalized Pathways

Topics: Community College, Academic Affairs, Academic Planning, Curriculum Development, Program Approval, Program Prioritization, Student Retention and Success, Developmental and Remedial Education

Build Non-STEM Developmental Pathways

Removing Unnecessary Content Reduces Barriers to Completion

JSCC Matches Modules to Degree Programs

Institutions with the modified emporium model in place can tailor the developmental curriculum to students’ academic and career goals through major module matching. At Jackson State Community College, department chairs review descriptions of each developmental math module offered at the institution and determine which are necessary for success in each program of study. Students are only required to complete modules required for their major, shortening the developmental sequence and ultimately improving completion rates.

Department chairs at colleges with major module matching expressed that the process made them feel part of the overall math redesign. Once invested in the redesign process and witness to its success, these faculty members become champions for the initiative across campus.

Supplemental materials:

Download PDF Jackson State Community College Major Module Matcher
Download PDF Northern Virginia Community College Major Module Matcher

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Algebra Remediation Poor Prep for STAT101

Yet Statistics Skills Increasingly in Demand

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs requiring statistics knowledge is likely to grow by at least 14% over the next 10 years. Yet despite these market demands, most colleges only offer college algebra preparation as the sole enrollment option for developmental math students. In these courses, less than 10% of the curriculum overlaps with concepts covered in college statistics. As a result, students pursuing non-STEM majors don’t receive the developmental support needed for future college and career success.

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Launching a Statistics Pathway

Los Medanos College Path2Stats

In 2009, Los Medanos College launched a statistics pathway giving students at any developmental level the opportunity to complete a developmental statistics course and a college-level statistics course in one year. The accelerated pathway was developed by carefully reviewing the topics necessary for success in college statistics and eliminating unnecessary algebra concepts hindering student engagement. Shortening and contextualizing the developmental curriculum kept non-STEM students motivated to complete their math requirement and led to massive completion gains.

Students in the Path2Stats program completed college math by more than twice the rate of their peers at every level of developmental placement. The outcomes data provides evidence that curricular tailoring is effective for students at any level of developmental need.

Part of the credit for the impressive gains in student success at Los Medanos is due to a curriculum that emphasizes math’s applicability to real-world situations. Faculty may reinforce these lessons by connecting classroom lessons to students’ career goals, working with students to build transfer plans to local four-year institutions, and arranging trips to the college career office.

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Not Starting from Scratch

Foundations Develop Pre-Packaged Statistics and Quantitative Literacy Programs

Community colleges seeking alternatives to developmental algebra can limit implementation costs by adopting prepackaged curricula. Over the past five years, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas-Austin have developed three developmental curriculum packages used by community colleges across the country. Quantway and Statway were developed jointly by the two organizations, and the New Mathways project was developed the Dana Center independently.

The crucial difference between Quantway, Statway, and the New Mathways curriculum packages are the ease of scalability. In interviews with faculty, administrators, and representatives from each of the foundations, we found that the materials developed by the Carnegie Foundation require advanced teaching strategies and intensive professional development hours. In contrast, the Dana Center’s New Mathways project is considered easier to bring to life in the classroom and can be modified according to regional curricular requirements. Curricular materials for quantitative literacy, statistics, and algebra courses in The New Mathways project are available on the Dana Center’s website.

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Learning From First Adopters

Overcoming Two Potential Challenges to Non-STEM Developmental Pathways

Developmental statistics courses can encounter initial resistance from both students and four-year transfer partners. Administrators with experience launching statistics pathways advise institutions to prepare for two potential challenges in the first year of implementation: low student enrollment and university transfer partners unwilling to accept statistics credits.

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Spreading the Word

Strategic Recruitment Planning Worth the Investment for New Math Offerings

Colleges can easily generate student enrollment in new statistics pathways with an advanced recruitment plan. To avoid costly last-minute recruitment efforts, we recommend adopting an approach from Los Medanos College: list new statistics offerings alongside traditional offerings in the course catalog, advertise new statistics courses in traditional developmental courses, and start statistics courses two weeks later in the semester to give students a chance to switch into the course. These recruitment methods require little administrative time and effectively generate enrollment in new courses.

Los Medanos College suggests a three-prong approach to recruiting students to new statistics courses. First, elevate the placement of the new offering in the course catalog alongside other math courses; students rarely see pilot courses placed into the “experimental” section of the catalog. Second, assign staff to visit developmental algebra courses at the start of the semester and inform non-STEM students that developmental statistics courses are available. Statistics are better aligned to non-STEM degree requirements and should appeal to these students. Third, delay the start of the statistics pathway by two weeks to enable students to move from developmental algebra to developmental statistics without missing the first few days of class.

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Building Bridges to Articulation

Montgomery College Promotes Transferability With Professional Networking

Convincing four-year transfer partners to accept developmental statistics credits is a more difficult challenge. While the extent to which colleges can affect articulation agreements varies across institutions and states, Montgomery College’s two-step approach to building transfer pathways is a replicable best practice.

Montgomery College successfully navigated the articulation process by capitalizing on their math faculty’s professional network. As a starting point, college math faculty with relationships at nearby partner institutions leveraged those connections to form an initial group of transfer partners. From there, the college marshaled three key pieces of evidence to attract additional transfer institutions. The first piece of evidence is a list of early transfer partners, which builds the legitimacy of the program. The second piece is evidence of curricular rigor and the third is evidence of positive student outcomes. With these three pieces of evidence, Montgomery College was able to make the case to potential partners and build its transfer network.

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A Matter of Philosophy, Not Just Economics

Integrate Developmental Support with Career Training