GAO Study on Developmental Education and Preview of New Research Center on Best Practices and Assessment

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported the following:  Remedial education is being fast-tracked, served up in bite-sized pieces, and made more relevant to students' career goals as states and community colleges experiment with ways to keep them from getting discouraged and dropping out, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.  The report stops short of recommending any specific strategies, leaving that up to a national remediation-research center that will open next year with up to $10-million in funds over five years from the U.S. Department of Education. Proposals for the center, which was announced in May, were due last week.  Click here to download a copy of the report.

It highlights a number of new strategies, meanwhile, that seem to hold promise.  In Texas, Virginia, and Washington, three states that have been revamping remedial, or developmental, education, some colleges are compressing two semesters of instruction into one, an approach that can help some students progress faster. But at the same time, the authors say, it can leave the least-prepared students floundering.  Other strategies cited in the report include providing remediation in small modules, so that students study only what they need to get up to the college level. And offering students a tutorial before their placement test could help some avoid being placed in the noncredit classes altogether, the report notes.  The report is based on a yearlong study that included input from 10 community colleges in Texas, Virginia, and Washington, as well as one in California. The authors also consulted with national education experts and nonprofit and research groups.

Patti Levine-Brown, president of the National Association for Developmental Education, said she hoped the new center would end up at an institution with researchers who have spent time in the trenches. "There are a lot of people doing work in the field who don't understand what practitioners go through every day in the classroom," said Ms. Levine-Brown, who is also a professor of communications at Florida State College at Jacksonville. "One size does not fit all, and the more strategies we can come up with to help students succeed, the better."