Friends of IES Holds Capitol Hill Briefing on Advances in Educating Underprepared College Students
Friends of IES Holds Capitol Hill Briefing on Advances in Educating Underprepared College Students
March 2018
Left to right: Scott Ralls, Michelle
Hodara, Thomas Bailey, Joanna Gorin

On February 26, the Friends of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) coalition, of which AERA is a founding member, hosted a briefing, “Advances in Educating Underprepared College Students: Knowledge, Policy and Practice.” As Congress considers the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the briefing presented research and partnerships supported by IES that have shown positive effects in helping students who arrive at community colleges underprepared to complete courses and persist.

Thomas Bailey, professor and director of the IES-supported Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University, began by discussing data on earlier remedial education programs. He explained that despite the number of students who are referred to remedial courses, only 11 percent of students passed an introductory math course, with many students leaving along the way.

Bailey also described some of the data available on the percentage of students who are in need of developmental education at community college and the findings from several states in implementing developmental education models. In one approach, the Dana Center Mathematics Pathways, students were more likely to register and pass a developmental math course.

Michelle Hodara, practice expert for applied research and postsecondary success at Education Northwest, shared her work in partnerships between community college systems and the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (REL). As part of a research-practice partnership, REL Northwest conducted a descriptive study on the students from Oregon high schools who took remedial courses in community college, and used the data to reorganize the structure of courses. Community colleges have reformed the coursework, shortening the course sequence for developmental math from six courses to four. The partnership is currently evaluating the effects of these changes to plot a path forward.

Scott Ralls, president of Northern Virginia Community College, provided details on how the research at the Community College Research Center encouraged him to shift from remedial education to developmental education during his tenure as president of the North Carolina Community College System. A self-described “research junkie,” he explained how he used evidence to move toward an accelerated structure of developmental education that increased student retention and degree completion. Ralls invested the savings from reducing remedial education to STEM and high-demand technical education.

Joanna Gorin, vice president of research for the Educational Testing Service, served as moderator.

In addition to AERA, the briefing was co-sponsored by Friends of IES members Council for Exceptional Children, Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Knowledge Alliance, and the Society for Research in Child Development.