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

Integrate Developmental Support with Career Training

Math for Poets Not a Panacea

Students with Highest Math Need At Risk of Abandonment

Statistics pathways and major module matching are most effective for students who place into the two highest levels of developmental math. However, students testing into the lowest levels of developmental math, while aided by these innovations, continue to face bleak graduation odds. These outcomes for student with more significant development need have prompted both policy makers and college leaders to ask whether these students are a lost cause. Should resources be reallocated to students with greater attainment odds?

Despite growing calls to drastically reduce developmental support, most college leaders believe closing doors to students with the greatest developmental need is antithetical to their mission. Rather than turn away scores of adult, international, first-generation, and minority students, our members are eager for strategies to boost success rates for these populations.

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Integrating Developmental Support with Career Training

Success of Washington I-BEST for ABE Propels Model Across State Borders

Our research found that students who place into the lowest level of developmental math benefit greatly from a program called I-BEST, which integrates contextualized developmental and basic skills support with vocational training. The I-BEST model has produced impressive student success gains since its 2006 launch in Washington State, causing institutions across the country to consider the integrated approach for their campuses.

I-BEST was developed in Washington State to provide basic skills students with contextualized academic training and technical instruction. Since its inception, the model has been adapted for various student competency levels, including developmental education. Results data from I-BEST programs illustrate that students with severe developmental needs have strong chances of degree attainment with the right support. In Washington State, 55% of I-BEST students earn degrees or credentials, a major improvement on the average achievement levels for basic skills students. Post-graduate outcomes are similarly impressive, with I-BEST students earning over $2,000 more in annual earnings than their peers in traditional developmental programs.

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I-BEST in Brief

Core Features of Washington-Born Integrated Model

Although the I-BEST program has been adapted to account for local regulations, student needs, and budgets, the core features of the original model remain mostly intact across the country. Most programs require developmental skills and technical instructors to co-teach for-credit credential courses with a minimum of 50% instructor overlap. I-BEST credential sequences feed students into high-demand, high-pay industries in their local regions, such as manufacturing and health care.

Given the heightened cost of delivery, I-BEST programs are typically reserved for students with more significant developmental needs. Contextualized lessons and high-touch instructor interventions optimally equip these students for degree attainment.

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I-BEST in Practice

Grays Harbor Welding Program Best-in-Class Example of Integration

Like the modified math emporium, I-BEST program outcomes vary with how the model is implemented. While some colleges share stories of I-BEST programs with minimal gains in completion rates, others boast tremendous completion gains in which I-BEST students outperform college-ready peers. The welding I-BEST program at Grays Harbor College is a best-in-class example of curricular integration that has yielded truly impressive returns in student success.

Faculty at Grays Harbor attribute the I-BEST program’s success to high-performing instructor partnerships. The effective pairings are facilitated by an I-BEST facilitator tasked with pairing instructors based on classroom style and supporting pairs during the first few years of their partnership. The I-BEST facilitator encourages new pairs to consider 100% overlap time in their first year to ensure instructors can develop contextualized curriculum and teach effectively together.

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Facilitating High-Performing Instructor Partnerships

Grays Harbor College Attributes Program ROI to Strategic Pairings

I-BEST instructor pairings disintegrate for many reasons, including a struggle over control in the classroom, mismatched personality styles, and an inability to contextualize course content. To prevent these damaging outcomes, Grays Harbor College employs an I-BEST Facilitator to interview instructors, assess their potential for joint teaching, and decide which instructors will flourish as a pair. One hundred percent instructional overlap time in the first year gives the developmental instructor familiarity with the technical content.

I-BEST faculty members joke that instructional pairs are like a marriage—two people from different “worlds” within the college come together and must learn to cooperate on tasks they’ve previously done independently. Following this analogy, the I-BEST Facilitator acts as both a “matchmaker” and “marriage counselor” to the faculty pair. After creating the initial pairings, the I-BEST facilitator continues to meet with paired faculty members to address issues that arise during their partnership. The facilitator encourages faculty members to be in the classroom together 100% of the time in their first year of joint teaching to gain respective content familiarity. Grays Harbor faculty believe this overlap is key to designing curriculum that brings both mathematic and technical concepts to life.

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Build Non-STEM Developmental Pathways

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