Iowa review teams release recommendations to reform developmental education

Iowa review teams release recommendations to reform developmental education

DES MOINES – Two work groups charged with studying ways to reduce the need for developmental college coursework today released recommendations that support Iowa’s vision for all students to graduate from high school ready for college and for college students to have the support they need to complete a degree or credential.

Developmental (or remedial) education refers to undergraduate instruction that does not count toward a degree, but typically must be completed by students who are considered underprepared before advancing to college-level coursework. More than one out of every five Iowa students (21.6 percent) who enroll in an Iowa public college or university within one year of high school graduation take at least one developmental English or math course the first year of college. The rate is almost twice as high for black and Hispanic students (39.1 percent) as it is for white students (19.6 percent).

“Reducing the need for developmental education is a high priority because students who are placed in these courses are at risk of failing to progress and never completing a credential or degree,” said Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise. “These recommendations expand on efforts underway in our schools and colleges to further enhance student success and strengthen Iowa’s workforce talent pipeline.”

Two work groups were established in response to recommendations released last year by the Future Ready Iowa Alliance aimed at reaching the goal of 70 percent of Iowa workers having education or training beyond high school by 2025. One of those recommendations specifically calls out the need to improve remediation at both high school and postsecondary levels.

The High School and Community College Developmental Education Partnerships Working Group focused its recommendations on identifying and closing gaps in reading, writing, and math in high school. The group identified strong partnerships between high schools and community colleges, use of diagnostic tools to identify learning gaps, and meaningful course-taking during the senior year as components for effective transition from high school to college.

The Developmental Education Working Group evaluated best practices for supporting students who aren’t ready for college coursework and focused its recommendations on ways to improve advising, assessment, placement, teaching and delivery methods.

“The length of time spent in developmental courses can impede college persistence, increasing the time and cost it takes to earn a degree,” said Linda Allen, a work group member and Hawkeye Community College president. “Our goal is to identify gaps early and improve instruction and support services in order to make sure all students have a clear path to successful degree completion.”

The groups’ final reports emphasize the need for a statewide commitment to strategically reform developmental education to increase student completion and offer evidence-based strategies to better support Iowa’s increasingly diverse student population.

The work groups also recommend maintaining and nurturing partnerships between high schools and community colleges, with a shared definition of college readiness that outlines expectations of students ready for postsecondary coursework and experiences.

Recommendations include:

  • Adoption of a common diagnostic tool to determine appropriate senior-year interventions in high school to get them back on track.
  • Requiring all high school students to complete a math course during the senior year to reduce the erosion of math skills between high school and college.
  • Use of multiple measures to assess college readiness for student placement in college-level coursework.
  • Providing holistic and intrusive advising and academic supports in college to address individual student needs.
  • Implementing strategies that efficiently mainstream underprepared students into college-level courses while providing the supports they need to be successful.

Community college leaders have expressed commitment to implementing this reform and will lead continued efforts to improve and accelerate developmental education in Iowa. Additionally, the recommendations will be shared with the Iowa State Board of Education.

Visit the Developmental Education Work Group webpage for more information.