Course-taking patterns, policies, and practices in developmental education in the California Community Colleges
Policy discussions in California and nationally focus increasingly on student success in community colleges, and those discussions inevitably come around to questions of academic rigor within the system. But in the open-access community colleges in this state, ratcheting up expectations for college completion cannot be separated from the effectiveness of developmental or basic skills education in preparing students for college-level work.
That relationship between college readiness and student success has raised many important questions about:
- remedial course-taking patterns in California's community colleges that correlate most highly with various student outcomes and to what extent that varies based on student characteristics; and
- the current policies and practices related to remedial course-taking and developmental education more generally within the system; and
- the implications of the current situation for CCC practices and policies, and for state policy related to developmental education.
In 2009, the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office (CCCCO) contracted with EdSource to explore these questions, including an analysis of course-taking patterns. The CCCCO provided the study team with ample independence to pursue and report on the research as we believed was best.
EdSource contracted with Dr. Peter Riley Bahr, Assistant Professor of Education at the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor to compile and analyze data regarding the course-taking history of students who enrolled for the first time in Fall 2002 and—at some point prior to Summer 2009—enrolled in a remedial mathematics, writing, or reading course.
The study also describes relevant policies and practices in the community colleges. Researched and written by EdSource staff, it reflects literature review, policy analysis, and information gathered through interviews and other consultation with more than 40 community college stakeholders, including educators, policymakers, and researchers within and outside California.
- Executive Summary (PDF 626 KB)
- Full Report (PDF 3.3 MB) Includes executive summary and technical appendices.
- Press Release (October 2010)
Drawing heavily from this study, this EdSource report, Something's Got to Give: California can't improve college completions without rethinking developmental education at its community colleges, also highlights recent state policy actions and the broader context within which those actions were taken.
- About half of fall 2002 first-time community college students enrolled in a remedial course
- Community college students' starting levels in writing and math in 2002
- Distribution of community college students across remedial levels by race/ethnicity