A Blueprint for Putting Students
on the Path to Completion
Each year, more than a million students begin college in remediation – prerequisite coursework that costs states and students hundreds of millions of dollars but doesn’t count toward a degree. For most of these students, remediation will be their first and last college experience – a tragedy that is disproportionally true for low-income students and students of color. Even among recent high school graduates – those who should be most prepared for college – 36% are required – often unnecessarily – to enroll in no-credit, remedial courses.
Access to remediation is not access to college. Few remedial students ever enroll in, let alone complete, their introductory (gateway) courses in Math and English, and only 14% will graduate.
It comes down to attrition. Most students succeed in their remedial courses but simply fail to enroll in subsequent courses. Off-track and often out of money, more give up than fail. Consequently, many who might have succeeded stop before they ever actually start college-level work.
Percent of students enrolled in remediation who complete the associated introductory (gateway) course
Corequisite Remediation is doubling and tripling gateway college course success in half the time or better.
Where once there was a bridge to nowhere but college debt, disappointment and drop out, today there is a new, proven bridge to college success – a bridge that is spanning the divide between hope and attainment. We call it Corequisite Remediation.Read More
In Corequisite Remediation, students enroll directly into college-level courses and receive academic support alongside their regular classes. Rather than facing a long sequence of prerequisite, non-credit courses, students get up to speed while working toward their degree. Additional class periods or customized support in a lab provide academic support “just in time” within a college-level course.Read Less
Percent of students enrolled in remediation who complete the associated introductory (gateway) course
States are stepping up and acting boldly to transform developmental education in this country. Corequisite Remediation works, and these states are proving it.
Under Georgia’s traditional model, only 21% of students starting in remediation in fall 2010 completed the corresponding introductory (gateway) math or English course within two years. Even fewer students graduated within 150% time. Traditional remediation consumed time and money, without succeeding in its goals of moving students into college-level work and enabling them to complete degrees. After switching to Corequisite Remediation, success rates shot to 71% in college English and 63% in college math.
Percent of students enrolled in remediation who complete the associated introductory (gateway) course
In 2011, Governor Nathan Deal announced Complete College Georgia, a statewide initiative to boost college completion and close attainment gaps. With help from a Completion Innovation Challenge Grant from Complete College America, the Governor’s vision for the state triggered a partnership between the University System of Georgia (USG) and the Technical College System of Georgia to pursue bold strategies for reform, including the implementation of Corequisite Remediation.
In 2013, USG formed task forces to “transform remediation” in English and mathematics. Each faculty-led task force included representatives from several USG institutions, the system office, the Complete College Georgia team, and the Charles A. Dana Center. The task forces’ work resulted in policy changes indicating Corequisite Remediation would be the preferred form of remediation. The University System of Georgia implemented corequisite remediation at scale in fall 2015. See the Georgia Math Task Force report here.
German Vargas, Associate Professor of Mathematics at the College of Coastal Georgia was one of the state’s trailblazers in the use of corequisite support for his College Algebra course. In his work, he found that students who would have otherwise been placed into remedial math could not only pass, but could excel in college level mathematics when given just-in-time assistance. German’s reforms landed him on the statewide task force where he worked to build math pathways statewide and bring Corequisite Remediation to full scale in Georgia.
In Georgia, the strategy originated in the Governor’s office and benefited greatly from the commitment of system leaders. It enlisted faculty leaders in the development and implementation of a system of academic support that has now resulted in an early victory for the comprehensive Complete College Georgia strategy by generating dramatic improvements in gateway course success.
Under the traditional remedial model at the West Virginia Community and Technical Colleges (WVCTC), only 14% of students placed into remedial math were completing the associated gateway course within two years. Armed with evidence that corequisite support could achieve meaningful improvements, Chancellor Jim Skidmore led West Virginia to make the switch to Corequisite Remediation. Within just one year of the reforms, success rates skyrocketed to 62%.
During a 2013 CCA National Academy, West Virginia state leaders examined powerful coreq results from a statewide experiment made possible by a CCA/Gates Foundation CICG grant. In order to scale the reform in West Virginia, WVCTC Chancellor Jim Skidmore took action. Without direct governing authority over the state’s community and technical colleges, he set out to convince campus presidents to voluntarily transform remediation. He made the case well; Chancellor Skidmore and the college presidents would go on to commit to scale Corequisite Remediation by fall 2014.
After Chancellor Skidmore and the President’s Council acted, Sarah Tucker and Patrick Crane from the WVCTC Council’s staff put a reform strategy in motion, beginning with a Complete College America state academy. During the academy, teams of faculty and administrators from the state’s community and technical colleges gathered with some of the nation’s foremost experts to develop Corequisite Remediation implementation plans. Math would be scaled by fall of 2014 and English by the fall of 2015.
Michael McComas of Mountwest Community and Technical College had for years seen students in his remedial math classes fail. He knew his students could succeed – many were passing the courses when they stopped attending – but gateway course success rates remained dismal. In response, McComas worked with colleagues to enroll students directly in gateway math courses and provide academic support as a corequisite. The results were astounding with over 70% of his remedial students completing gateway courses in a single semester.
Chancellor Skidmore’s leadership laid the groundwork for a reform that has transformed college completion opportunities for thousands of West Virginia students. The new chancellor, Sarah Tucker, accepts the role as the new champion of the reform that, as she declared, achieved results that are like nothing she has ever seen in all her years in higher education. Now the work moves to the four-year institutions, which have committed to fully scaling corequisite support for all students by fall 2017.
Tennessee has been a national leader in remedial education for a decade, with their efforts propelling many reforms across the country. While the state could have rested on its laurels, key leaders recognized that, of the reforms being utilized, Corequisite Remediation models were achieving the greatest results. The state’s coreq pilot found that student success in gateway English courses improved from 31% in two years to 64% in one semester. Likewise, success in college-level math improved from 12% to 61%.
Tennessee is an example of leadership in action: Tristan Denley, the architect of Austin Peay State University’s coreq model, provided a blueprint to transform remediation; members of the legislature passed the Complete College Tennessee Act, ushering in a new era of higher education reform; Board of Regents Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Paula Short had already begun work to improve student success; and Chancellor John Morgan provided the support needed for all of these stakeholders to collaborate and build upon existing successes. Taken together, these leaders highlight a state ready to achieve dramatic results.
Propelled by a new state policy that prevented four-year institutions from offering remedial education, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Austin Peay State University Tristan Denley and his team developed the Structured Assistance Program which placed students into college-level English or math courses and provided additional support through a fee-based lab that met two hours per week. In addition, Austin Peay developed differentiated math pathways which included a college-level math for liberal arts course and statistics courses. Academic support would be provided as a corequisite in the math course that was aligned to their program of study. The results were nothing short of astounding with success in gateway math courses improving from around 10% in two years to between 65% and 78%. In English, success improved from 49% to over 70%.
Dr. Denley didn’t stop there, though. When he moved into the position of Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the Tennessee Board of Regents, he collaborated with faculty leaders to scale Corequisite Remediation across the state. To address concerns about the applicability of corequisite remedial education at community colleges, he designed a pilot study to test its effectiveness in those settings. Not only did he find that the reforms translated well to community colleges, he found that students of all academic levels were more successful in corequisites. As a result, he implemented a new policy to move Corequisite Remediation to full scale, system wide, in fall 2015.
With the Tennessee Board of Regents system having dedicated time and energy to the still relatively new prerequisite models, community college faculty like Chippy McClain of Walters State Community College stepped forward to test out the new corequisite model. McClain provided 250 students, all of whom had ACT subscores between 10 and 17, corequisite support while they were enrolled in college-level English, resulting in improvements from about 30% of students passing the course in the traditional model to over 65% passing in the single-semester corequisite model.
After receiving a Completion Innovation Challenge Grant, then Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Mary Ostrye at Ivy Tech Community College, in collaboration with the Indiana Commission of Higher Education, built a remedial education reform strategy. After a period of experimentation, it became clear that corequisite support was the only model that achieved measurable improvements. Also, they uncovered that a singular path for students through College Algebra was resulting in extremely low gateway math success rates. The addition of corequisite courses in math and English, along with new quantitative reasoning and technical math pathways, resulted in gateway course success increases from 29% in math after three years to 64%. In English, improvements were from 37% in three years to 55% in one semester. The new math pathways resulted in many more students being placed directly into college-level math courses, without the need for remediation. Consequently, overall placement in remedial math dropped from 77% to about 34%.
Mary Ostrye provided key leadership to the remedial education reforms movement in Indiana. Once it became clear that the system needed a comprehensive remedial education reform strategy that included new gateway math pathways and a commitment to corequisites, Mary persuaded the Ivy Tech board to adopt corequisite support as a best practice. This formal designation meant that all campuses had to implement corequisite support. In addition, they set a timetable for scale. The approach required an increase in corequisite sections offered each semester with the goal of 100% scale.
With the leadership of Vice President for Developmental Education Saundra King, the system used its CICG grant to experiment with a range of approaches, including Corequisite Remediation. When data was collected, it became clear that Corequisite Remediation should be scaled for all support in English and in the new Quantitative Reasoning course. System leaders immediately implemented an interim strategy that paired a remedial course and college math course. The results, even with little planning and design, were very promising. When the new quantitative reasoning course was developed and appropriate support was designed, success rates climbed even higher.
To ensure consistency in the implementation of corequisite reforms, Ivy Tech established clear guidelines for the scaling of corequisite models. The guidelines answered many questions and provided key guidance to faculty as they developed the approaches on campus.
Rob Jeffs was a jack of all trades for Ivy Tech. He had been involved in several leadership roles on his campus, but his greatest professional accomplishment may have been his work after returning to the faculty. Jeffs chaired a math pathways taskforce at Ivy Tech that resulted in a new technical math course.
A new, non-transferable technical math pathway enabled the institution to guide many more students directly into technical certificate programs with a course far more aligned with the content needed for their credential. The results were outstanding with a very high percentage of students who would have otherwise been in remedial education passing the course. In addition to his work on technical math, he became a committed instructor in the corequisite, quantitative reasoning course. Rob likes to say that his work on rebuilding math pathways in the final years of his professional career will be the lasting legacy he will leave Ivy Tech.
Ivy Tech Community College – statewide institution that had very low gateway course success rates – knew that dramatic change was essential to improving graduation rates. While they allowed experimentation, the system moved aggressively to scale Corequisite Remediation once the data clearly indicated it was a superior model. Their approach resulted in immediate benefits to students and added momentum to further refine approaches for boosting student success.
The Colorado Community College System was one of the first states in the nation to set a course for a new state policy that explicitly called for Corequisite Remediation. The System’s Chief Academic Officer convened faculty leaders from all campuses in a review of the research and experimentation that has resulted in an approach where over 5,000 otherwise traditional remedial students were now in corequisites. The reforms resulted in success rates that improved from 31% to 64%.
Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Geri Anderson committed the system to comprehensive reforms in remedial education through the acquisition of a federal TAACT and Completion Innovation Challenge Grant. She enlisted Casey Sacks from the system office to coordinate a task force of community college faculty and other leaders where she declared that the result of their work would be a new and comprehensive policy to transform remedial education in Colorado.
The initiative empowered campuses to study and pilot evidence-based reforms to determine which strategies were most effective and should lay the foundation for a new system policy. As the results came in from the campuses and the task force deliberated over new research emerging from the field, it became increasingly clear that the goal of the new policy would be to enable all Colorado community college students an opportunity to complete college-level courses in math and English in one year. The new strategy and policy, which was implemented in fall 2013, created two pathways in math and associated academic support models. In addition, the policy created a new combined reading and writing strategy in English. Both reforms provided corequisite support options as a design element. English faculty jumped in with both feet to create a reading/writing corequisite strategy that is a model for the nation. The development of a new math pathway strategy designed by two-year and four-year math faculty is expected to catalyze a movement to expand the use of corequisites in math in the very near future.
Shawna Van, an English faculty member at Front Range Community College, quickly became a vocal spokesperson for the new corequisite approach. After implementation of the corequisite model at her institution achieved dramatic results, she quickly became an advocate for corequisite reading and writing. Likewise, James Gray, a math faculty leader who was originally resistant to corequisites in math is venturing forward with a corequisite math strategy at Community College of Aurora that has a primary objective of dramatically increasing gateway course success rates for students of color.
Without a blueprint to pursue, Geri Anderson led a major statewide reform process for remedial education. Using the best evidence and data available, they implemented reforms that achieved dramatic results. As new policies for math pathways are implemented and the evidence of success grows, the work ahead involves continuous improvement and even greater scale for thousands more students.
Percent of students enrolled in Corequisite Remediation
Percent of Corequisite students completing the associated introductory (gateway) course in 1 semester
Build Your Own Corequisite Program on a Solid Foundation Using These 6 Pillars
Colleges must end the practice of using placement exams to sort students into multiple levels of remedial education. Instead, colleges should deploy a comprehensive intake process to discern students’ academic goals, career goals and overall college readiness, including both academic and non-cognitive measures. The process should result in students choosing a broad area of study or meta-major and enrolling in appropriate gateway courses, particularly in math, that will enable them to enter a program of study in their first academic year.
All students should to be treated as college students on day one, rather than as remedial students who must demonstrate their readiness for college before entering a program. As a result, the default placement for the vast majority of students who may not be optimally prepared for college-level courses should be college-level courses with built-in or concurrent support in the form of Corequisite Remediation.
Current placement practices often result in students who could be placed into college work being required to enroll in remedial courses that ultimately delay and undermine their ability to earn a credential. Instead, advisors and students should jointly decide the most appropriate level of support students require to pass college-level courses and enter a program of study within their first year. Students who are enrolled in college-level courses and receive appropriate support are far more likely to commit themselves to student success.
The vast majority of students who require additional academic support in college-level courses should receive it as a corequisite while enrolled in a college-level course. There are many different approaches to corequisite support that have proven to dramatically increase success rates in college-level courses. While there are differences in approach, all are designed to provide students more time on task on the content and skills that are essential for success in the college-level course. The most successful models enroll students in college-level courses and provide support within one semester. Approaches include:
Two semester models that provide college-level instruction and academic support over the course of an academic year are also successful but don’t have the results of single semester models. In addition to providing academic support, these courses may include support in other college success skills, like study habits, time management and other organizational skills.
Colleges must abandon the use of long remedial education sequences that would prevent students from completing college-level courses in one academic year. In addition, colleges should require all students to enroll in college-level courses and receive the support they need within the first academic year. Students who do not complete gateway courses and enter a program of study are far less likely to complete a postsecondary credential.
If there are students who might not be ideally suited for corequisite support in either a single semester or two semester model, then every effort should be made to ensure students have the opportunity to complete college-level courses and enter a program of study in their first academic year. Additional strategies that would complement corequisite models would be abbreviated bridge courses of one or two weeks that fully prepare students for enrollment in corequisite courses.
Technology-based or other intensive practices can be deployed to enable students to both assess their readiness and receive support in the essential skills needed to get them ready for college-level courses. Every effort should be made to ensure all students enter college-level courses in their first academic year.
College algebra should no longer be viewed as the default gateway math course. Instead, college algebra should be viewed narrowly as a preparatory course for programs that require precalculus or calculus.
Colleges should develop alternative gateway math courses for programs of study that do not require calculus. For many programs, a rigorous course in quantitative reasoning or statistics would be more appropriate.
Efforts should be made at the state level to ensure that all math pathways and their associated gateway courses are applicable to program of study requirements and are fully transferable across institutions. In addition, colleges should abandon the long algebra-based remedial sequences for non-calculus based pathways and replace them with academic support that is aligned to success in quantitative reasoning, statistics or other college-level courses.
Colleges that have created alternative math pathways and provided academic support in gateway courses as a corequisite have seen dramatic improvements in student success.
Corequisite support will dramatically increase the number of students who pass a college-level gateway course and enter a program of study within one year. Once that occurs it is incumbent on colleges to maintain additional supports for these students through the implementation of other Game Changer strategies like GPS Direct, 15 to Finish and Structured Schedules. Building a system of corequisite support for all students who require additional academic support will result in dramatic improvements in college completion when combined with all of Complete College America’s Game Changers.
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