12 States Accelerate Developmental Education Reforms During the Pandemic

Postsecondary & Workforce

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This post comes from Strong Start to Finish, an initiative at Education Commission of the States that aims to help colleges and universities increase the number and proportion of low-income students, students of color and returning adults who succeed in college math and English.

Amid unprecedented challenges to nearly every aspect of higher education, it’s been difficult to continue commitments to institutional and systemic change made before the pandemic. However, Strong Start to Finish (SSTF) continues to push through these difficult times to advance developmental education and support the 4.8 million students that this work now impacts.

Strong Start to Finish just announced an exciting new investment to further support states, institutions, students and its collective understanding of what works in developmental education. Thirteen systems of higher education in 12 states were awarded funding to achieve very clear and explicit goals.

For example, the State University of New York will develop recommendations for implementation of new multiple-measures placement guidelines at both the system and institutional level. The University System of Georgia will develop a scaled statistics pathway available to every student. In Oregon, colleges and universities will develop corequisite courses for STEM and non-STEM math pathways that will be transferable to institutions statewide; and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education will develop evidence based and faculty-driven guidelines for co-requisite math instruction to be implemented beginning in fall 2021.

These newest reform efforts provide clear guidance for state leaders looking to improve their state’s educational attainment rates, for institutions looking to increase their retention and completion rates, and most importantly for students who dream of becoming college graduates. At the same time, 17 organizations have come together as a network to support systems as they undertake reforms. One new project is a toolkit focus on corequisite reform models led by the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas–Austin in partnership with Carnegie Math Pathways and Bruce Vandal Consulting. Recognizing the shifting learning environment, they will offer a free four-part interactive webinar series on the design and delivery of online corequisite math courses starting in late July and running through early August.

Reforming developmental education has been a multi-year effort to build an evidence base from the ideas and efforts of countless contributors including education system leaders, researchers, partner organizations, policymakers, philanthropists and practitioners. Earlier this year the Core Principles that guide SSTF efforts were strengthened through research, learning and leadership.

Collectively the 13 systems, 17 support organizations and countless policymakers will benefit from the support of Strong Start to Finish, as well as the initiative’s commitment to advancing research that builds an evidence base for developmental education reforms. This evidence base inspires Strong Start to Finish’s commitments to change the trajectory for students no matter how difficult times get.

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Director at Strong Start to Finish | cmullin@strongstart.org

Chris oversees Strong Start to Finish, an initiative of the Education Commission of the States focused on increasing the number of students completing their first credit-bearing math and English course in their first year of study. Prior to joining Education Commission of the States, he served as the executive vice chancellor of the Florida College System, an assistant vice chancellor for the State University System of Florida, the program director for policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges and a postdoctoral fellow at the Illinois Education Research Council. He also taught at university and K-12 levels. Chris undertakes this work as his experiences have led him to recognize the pressing need to develop and disseminate frameworks that empower people and communities.

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