This excerpt is from monograph, Access at the Crossroads. The history of learning assistance and developmental education is often ignored and misunderstood, especially by policymakers as they revise and restrict academic access programs. This excerpt is part two of the time period between 1970s through mid-1990s. For more information about my monograph, click the box in the left column.
Rise of the Professional Associations
The 1980s witnessed the birth of several national associations serving professionals in the ﬁeld of learning assistance, coinciding with the explosive growth in college enrollment and number of public postsecondary institutions, especially community colleges. Institutions expanded their teaching staff for remedial and developmental courses. The exponential growth of learning assistance centers required a new category of college employees. These new professionals needed organizations that met needs for postsecondary education rather than older organizations devoted to serving educators in elementary and secondary education. They needed to increase their professionalism and provide venues for conversation with colleagues and experienced leaders in learning assistance. The new organizations provided a supportive community for new professionals who might be isolated on campus and were sometimes stigmatized because of their association with learning assistance programs.
Established in 1952, the Southwest Reading Conference, later renamed the National Reading Conference, was ﬁrst to serve postsecondary educators in this ﬁeld. The College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA, previously named the Western College Reading Association and later the Western College Reading and Learning Association) was founded in 1966. The CRLA publishes a quarterly newsletter, annual conference proceedings, and the biannual Journal of College Reading and Learning. Conferences are held annually at national venues and at CRLA-affiliated chapters throughout the United States. The focus of the CRLA was clearly postsecondary education. Previously, learning assistance personnel had few options for professional development other than from other organizations with a predominately elementary and secondary education focus such as the International Reading Association. The CRLA and the other learning assistance associations that followed it provided an identity and a place for postsecondary learning assistance professionals to gather and exchange information.
Following passage of national legislation creating the federal TRIO programs for ﬁrst-generation and economically disadvantaged students, political advocacy was essential to expand ﬁnancial and stable support for these programs. During the early 1970s, regional professional associations created by TRIO staff members represented their interests for increased national funding and provided professional development services for themselves. Clark Chipman, a regional USDOE higher education administrator for the Upper Midwest, was a key leader for development of the first TRIO association. It was called the Mid-American Association for Educational Opportunity Program Personnel. Afterwards, nine additional regional associations formed across the United States. In 1981 Clark Chipman and Arnold Mitchem coordinated efforts of preceding regional associations to inﬂuence national policy through creation of the National Council of Educational Opportunity Associations. In 1988 the association changed its name to the Council on Opportunity in Education (Grout, 2003).
The National Association for Developmental Education (NADE, initially named the National Association for Remedial/Developmental Studies in Postsecondary Education) was founded in 1976. Because of uncertainty about what would become the more widely adopted term, both “remedial” and “developmental” were included in the association’s original name. In 1981 the NADE contracted with the National Center for Developmental Education to provide the Journal of Developmental Education as a membership beneﬁt and official journal of the association. The NARDSPE changed its name to the NADE in 1984.
A variety of other professional associations were born in the 1990s. The National College Learning Center Association provided professional development for learning center directors. The National Tutoring Association served educators from higher education, secondary education, and private individuals engaged in tutoring. The Association for the Tutoring Profession was created for similar purposes. The Council for Learning Assistance and Developmental Education Associations (initially named the American Council of Developmental Education Associations) began in 1996 to serve as a forum for these professional associations to meet and engage in cooperative activities, information sharing, and networking.
The growth of these organizations signiﬁed historically that learning assistance was becoming more complex, employing more professionals, and needed professional associations focused on their special needs in higher education. Large established organizations such as the International Reading Association, Conference on College Composition and Communication, and American Mathematical Society generally provided special interest groups for postsecondary learning assistance professionals. They missed the opportunity, however, to fully meet the needs of the professionals who preferred the smaller and more narrowly focused learning assistance associations. This situation led to duplication of services among the larger content-focused organizations and the smaller learning assistance associations. It also may have led to increased stigma for the learning assistance professionals, as they did not become members and attend the conferences of the larger organizations that attracted membership of mainstream college faculty and staff members. It was another way that some learning assistance professionals stood apart from the mainstream in higher education.
Support Systems for Leaders and Practitioners
Several other national organizations, graduate education programs, and publications have contributed to the history of the learning assistance community. A three-year grant from the Kellogg Foundation established the National Center for Developmental Education (NCDE) in 1976. Two years later NCDE began publishing The Journal of Developmental Education (initially named Journal of Developmental and Remedial Education). Review of Research in Developmental Education was another NCDE publication; created in 1983, it focused on current research in the field. Since 1980 the center has also hosted the Kellogg Institute for the Training and Certiﬁcation of Developmental Educators.
During this period, a variety of formal and informal systems of professional development for learning assistance were established. Practitioners in the ﬁeld previously relied on degree programs for elementary and secondary education. Secondary educators teaching reading, English, and mathematics staffed many of the learning assistance centers and taught developmental courses in postsecondary institutions.
New graduate programs also emerged to equip learning center professionals at the college level rather than relying on preparation for secondary schools. The first graduate programs in developmental education (M.A. and Ed.S.) began at Appalachian State University in 1972. Grambling State University (Louisiana) in 1986 offered the nation’s first doctoral program (Ed.D.). National Louis University (Chicago), Texas State University at San Marcos, and the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities (Minneapolis) also established learning assistance graduate certiﬁcate or degree programs during this period. Collectively these advanced degrees contributed to the professionalization and ability to meet student needs by learning assistance faculty and staff members. A major challenge with the national impact of these programs is that they are few in number and many current learning assistance professionals ﬁnd it difﬁcult to relocate them to meet residency requirements and to secure funds for tuition. An expansion of distance learning pedagogies for the degree programs would permit easier access for graduate students who are place bound and unable to participate in long required residency stays at the degree-granting institutions.