What We Know About Accelerated Developmental Education

By Glee Smith

A recent report from the Community College Research Center (CCRC) examined accelerated developmental education at four community colleges to compare the success of students who were placed in accelerated developmental sequences verses students who were placed in standard developmental sequence. Because the majority of developmental students drop out before completing assigned sequences, some colleges have developed accelerated developmental sequences to help students complete remediation within a shorter time frame so they can enroll more quickly in college-level math and English.

The accelerated sequences studied are designed to limit the opportunities for students to drop out of developmental coursework and ensure courses are better aligned with college-level curricula. There is concern among faculty members and administrators that accelerated sequences do not provide ample time for adequate academic remediation, leading to an increased risk of students dropping out.

The following are the Community Colleges that participated in the study and their results: – Community College of Denver – offered an accelerated math sequence that could be completed in one semester rather than two and assigned students to a case manager who encouraged them to take a student success course. Pass rates were the same for students in the accelerated program and the standard developmental program. – Chabot College – offered accelerated developmental English aligned with college-level English requirements that was one semester rather than two . Accelerated students were more likely to complete the gatekeeper English but the pass rates were the same for both groups. Accelerated students accrued more college-level credits. – Community College of Baltimore County – offered an upper level developmental writing course that was given while the students took English 101. By offering concurrent enrollment, the college eliminated exit points and ensured better alignment with skills taught in the college-level class. The program caused a boost in gatekeeper enrollment and completion rates, which was not surprising since the students were concurrently enrolled in college level English. – City University of New York’s (CUNY) Community Colleges – due to the nature of the CUNY system, each college could develop its own sequence. The findings varied by sequence offered, but they found that students enrolled in shorter sequences were more likely to enroll in and complete gatekeeper courses. In math, the pass rates were the same but in writing, students in the shorter sequences were less likely to pass the gatekeeper English but accrued more college-level credits.

From these cases we can see that there is no “one size fits all” accelerated developmental sequence that addresses all the challenges of underprepared students. The findings suggest that programs with student supports increase student success rates demonstrate the need to limit exit points from courses of study, and highlight the need for developmental courses to be aligned with college-level curricula.