Texas Upends Traditional Developmental Education

The Texas College and Career Readiness Standards are a set of knowledge and skills high school students should have upon graduation to succeed in entry-level community college and university courses. But how college-ready are the thousands of high school seniors who are graduating this year? According to the U.S. Department of Education, about a third of American students are not college ready. They will require developmental education when they enter college.

The downside to traditional developmental education is that students must take non-credit courses in subjects such as reading, writing and math before enrolling in college-level coursework. For many students, this exhausts their finances and motivation which often leads to high drop-out or stop-out rates.

Texas policy shift

More than 40 percent of students entering a Texas public institution of higher education do not meet state college readiness standards. Most of these students start at public community and technical colleges. Among those who are not college ready in math, reading or writing, only 40 to 60 percent meet readiness standards within two years. And, only about 25 to 40 percent go on to complete a college-level course.

Regarding completion of a degree or certificate within six years, non-college-ready students lag those who are deemed college ready in all subjects. Fortunately, the outcomes for underprepared students are improving steadily, and have been over the past five years. More progress is anticipated with the implementation of co-requisite education statewide.

The Texas co-requisite policy shift requires a certain percentage of underprepared students who are enrolled in developmental education be enrolled in both the college-level course and a support course/intervention designed to ensure students’ success. The developmental component provides

  • support aligned directly with the learning outcomes,
  • targeted instruction,
  • assessment of the entry-level freshman course, and
  • needed adjustments to advance students’ success in the entry-level freshman course.

Rather than having to wait semesters or even years before taking a college-level course, the co-requisite model provides an immediate bridge – just-in-time support – for the student.

This model has been used with success in states such as California, Connecticut, West Virginia, Colorado, and Tennessee. Student success rates are double or even triple in half the time of traditional remedial education.

Texas Co-requisite Project

In 2018, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) hosted four two-day conferences on co-requisite education. In addition, the THECB held webinars, meetings and professional development sessions. THECB staff have also made presentations on the co-requisite education effort, which also supports the state’s 60x30TX strategic plan for higher education.

The agency has awarded $2.74 million to 18 Texas public community colleges and universities to develop and implement co-requisite education programs across the state. Legislation that enables co-requisite education states that by

  • 2018-2019: At least 25 percent of each institution’s underprepared students who are enrolled in developmental education must be enrolled in corequisite models
  • 2019-2020: At least 50 percent of these students must be enrolled in co-requisite coursework
  • 2020-forward: At least 75 percent of these students must be enrolled in co-requisite coursework

In summary, developmental education costs tens of millions of dollars each year for Texas, its public higher education institutions, and our students and their families. The Texas Co-requisite Project is intended to provide more efficient services, saving time and money.

First year results look promising

First year co-requisite results look very promising. Results from fall 2018 show that of the 101 institutions reporting data, 74 – that is 73 percent – met the initial goal of the Texas Co-requisite Project in reading, writing or integrated reading and writing (IRW) courses. And, 71 institutions – that is 70 percent – met the goal in math.

Because so many more students are enrolled in co-requisite models, and co-requisite models are associated with higher first college-level course completion, the overall percentage of students successfully completing a first college-level course increased for both subjects in all sectors.

  • At community and technical colleges, the percent of students completing a first college-level course in math increased from 3.1 percent in fall 2017 to 13.3 percent in fall 2018, and from 5.9 percent to 19.6 percent in reading, writing and IRW.
  • Universities’ overall percentage of first college-level completion among eligible students also increased overall from 5.7 percent in fall 2017 to 21 percent in fall 2018 for math and from 3.1 percent to 18.6 percent for reading, writing or IRW.

This means that statewide in fall 2018, 6,735 more students completed the first college-level course in math, and 3,832 more students completed a first college-level course in reading and writing when compared to fall 2017. These students are building momentum to help meet the completion goals of 60x30TX. Equally important, they are on the path toward a more prosperous future.

Kelly Carper Polden is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is the assistant director of external relations, responsible for state agency communications and media relations, for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. She has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning, strategic communication professional with extensive experience in media and public relations, C-suite communications, global events management, brand/corporate image management, and strategic and crisis communication management. You can read her posts here.

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