Characterizing the Effectiveness of Developmental Education: A Response to Recent Criticism

Bailey, Thomas R.; Jaggars, Shanna; Scott-Clayton, Judith E.

Over the past several years, the Community College Research Center (CCRC) has conducted several research studies on developmental education and has produced reviews synthesizing the results of our own work together with that of colleagues from other research organizations. In a recent issue of the Journal of Developmental Education, Alexandros Goudas and Hunter Boylan (2012) aimed several criticisms at this body of work, with the key claims being that: (1) we unfairly portray developmental education as ineffective because it does not lead to outcomes better than those of college-ready students; (2) we ignore several studies showing positive results; and (3) we overgeneralize from results that are only valid for students near the developmental cutoff scores. These three claims are woven into a broader critique that we have “cherry-picked” negative results, neglected methodological problems with the studies yielding such results, and ignored positive results in order to advance our own reform agenda and, in particular, to support the notion of co-requisite developmental education. In this essay, we address each of the claims advanced by Goudas and Boylan (2012). We disagree with their portrayal of our research as biased and flawed, yet we also believe that their comments may reflect some widespread confusion in the field about research on developmental education—so our response has significance beyond our particular disagreements with these authors.


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Academic Units
Community College Research Center
Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University
CCRC Report
Published Here
February 12, 2014