Developmental math study shows promising results

The developmental math component of the Dana Center Mathematics Pathways (DCMP) program in Texas is showing promising results, according to a report from the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR).

The report found community college students in Texas who took DCMP accelerated prerequisite developmental courses enrolled in and passed college-level math courses at higher rates than students who enrolled in traditional developmental math.

Under the DCMP program, developed by the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin, math courses are tailored to different majors, instead of requiring all students to take algebra. The developmental component calls for students not ready to start college by taking a for-credit math course to instead enroll in a compressed prerequisite developmental course, allowing them to take a  college-level math course sooner, thus accelerating their ability to earn math credits.

Under traditional developmental math programs, students can remain trapped in remedial math and never make it to a college-level course.

The report found that students enrolled in DCMP developmental math were about 13 percentage points more likely to enroll in college-level math in the following semester. Students in the DCMP course also were 8 percentage points more likely to pass college-level math in that term than their peers who enrolled in traditional developmental math. The students in traditional developmental math caught up partway, but a gap remained after two years.

Equity concerns

The report also found that white students were disproportionately enrolled in the math pathways courses, and Hispanic students more likely to enroll in traditional remediation, which raises concerns about equity. “The disparities in white and Hispanic student enrollments – in which white students appear to be strongly overrepresented and Hispanic students strongly underrepresented in DCMP courses – are striking,” it said.

Math reforms, such as accelerated prerequisite developmental coursework, “are opportunities for students to gain momentum through their college requirements,” the brief continued. “For that reason, colleges’ placement practices have important implications for equity. Decisions about placement by college personnel that serve to accelerate some students through developmental and college requirements and leave others with the status quo could exacerbate educational inequalities.”

The CAPR study used regression analysis controlling for student characteristics using student-level data compiled by the state from the more than 20 Texas community colleges that implemented the DCMP model in 2015 and 2016.

“Results from this study are encouraging,” the brief concluded. “They suggest that DCMP compressed prerequisite developmental courses are effective at accelerating community college students through their math requirements.”

On par with earlier results

That finding is consistent with interim findings from an earlier CAPR study that was based on a randomized controlled trial at four Texas community colleges. Since the time of the current CAPR study, the brief noted, many colleges in Texas and elsewhere are shifting developmental math from a compressed prerequisite approach to a corequisite model, in which students take college-level and developmental math in the same term.

“Full implementation of corequisite remediation could provide more equal access to opportunities to advance to and through college-level coursework,” the report said.

About the Author

Ellie Ashford
is associate editor of Community College Daily.