Challenge and Opportunity: Rethinking the Role and Function of Developmental Education in Community College
Community colleges are charged with teaching students college-level material, yet a majority of their students arrive with academic skills judged too weak to allow them to engage successfully in college-level work in at least one subject area. Colleges address this problem by providing extensive programs of developmental education designed to strengthen students' skills so they can successfully complete college-level courses. This Brief, based on a longer paper, reviews evidence on students who enter community college with weak academic skills, and it summarizes study findings on the effectiveness of developmental education. It suggests that, on average, developmental education is not very effective in overcoming student weaknesses. The Brief concludes with recommendations for a broad reform agenda based on a comprehensive approach to assessment, more research that tracks students through their early experiences at college, a blurring of the distinction between developmental and "college-level" students that could improve pedagogy for both groups of students, and strategies to streamline developmental programs and accelerate students' enrollment in college-level courses.
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