California can’t improve college completions without rethinking developmental education at its community colleges
California educates about one-quarter of all community college students in the nation, but large portions of community college students enter unprepared for college-level work. As a result, policy discussions in California and nationally are focusing increasingly on ways to improve student success in developmental or basic skills programs at community colleges.
State policymakers, community college system leaders, and local campus leaders and faculty all have a part to play in making this happen. Much of the work toward these objectives necessarily involves K–12 education as well.
This report sets out the issues involved, drawing heavily from a recent EdSource study that was commissioned by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office to provide a deeper understanding of the system’s challenges and opportunities related to developmental education. It also highlights recent state policy actions and the broader context within which those actions were taken.
Inside this report:
- In open-access community colleges, improving completion rates depends on students being able to do college-level work.
- Large portions of community college students enter unprepared to do the work.
- The definition and degree of readiness both vary across the system.
- Current efforts target ways to signal K–12 students about college expectations.
- A multitude of factors affect student completion.
- Experts agree that developmental education should change and have piloted models that better support student success.
- State policies can support or hamper campuses’ ability to implement innovations and evaluate them.
- Improving developmental education is a prerequisite for increasing college completions.
EdSource thanks the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office for the research contract and thanks The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for its general support, which enabled the production and dissemination of this report.