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IES Grant

Title: An Experimental Evaluation of Corequisite Developmental Education in Texas
Center: NCER Year: 2017
Principal Investigator: Miller, Trey Awardee: American Institutes for Research (AIR)
Program: Evaluation of State and Local Education Programs and Policies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (09/22/2017-08/31/2020) Award Amount: $4,500,000
Type: Efficacy Award Number: R305H170085

Previous Award Number: R305H150094
Previous Awardee: RAND Corporation

Co-Principal Investigators: Lindsay Daugherty (RAND)

Related Network Teams: College Completion Network Lead (PI: Eric Bettinger, R305N170003); Nudges to the Finish Line: Experimental Interventions to Prevent Late College Departure (PI: Benjamin Castleman, R305N160026); The Men of Color College Achievement (MoCCA) Project (PI: Lashawn Richburg-Hayes, R0305N160025); Affording Degree Completion: A Study of Completion Grants at Accessible Public Universities (PI: Sara Goldrick-Rab, R305N170020); A Scalable Growth Mindset Intervention to Raise Achievement and Persistence in Community College (PI: Gregory Walton, R305A150253)

Name of Partners: RAND Corporation and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

Purpose: The partnership will assess whether mainstreaming incoming college students with marginal academic skills into credit-bearing courses produces higher rates of college success than requiring these students to complete a developmental (remedial) education sequence prior to enrolling in credit-bearing courses. This evaluation responds to prior research evidence showing that many students required to complete developmental course sequences perform no better than similar students who do not take developmental courses, and may actually be less likely to complete credit-bearing courses and degrees. The partnership will focus on students at the margin of college readiness, who score somewhat below the college-ready cutoff score on the Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSIA), Texas' developmental education placement exam. By implementing a randomized controlled trial (RCT) study design, the partnership will determine whether mainstreaming is causally related to higher rates of course and degree completion for students at the margin of college readiness.

Project Activities: AIR, RAND and THECB will collaborate with postsecondary institutions across Texas as they implement the RCT. During the first six months of the project, researchers will visit administrators and instructors in each institution to assess their current practices for placing students into developmental education, as well as the current set of course sequences and supports available to students in need of developmental education. During the second and third years of the project (2016-18), the partnership will carry out an RCT of corequisites in five Texas postsecondary institutions. Researchers will follow students for up to three years from randomization, to assess short- and long-term outcomes associated with being placed in a corequisite model. After the treatment year, and during later stages of the project, the partnership will advise postsecondary institutions and state policymakers regarding the benefits and costs of corequisite models, and the conditions under which they are most helpful for students. In addition to the RCT, researchers will collect and analyze statewide implementation data.

Products: The partners will produce evidence regarding the efficacy of mainstreaming as a strategy for improving progression through postsecondary education, for students who enter college at the margin of college readiness. The partnership will produce guidance on mainstreaming for Texas postsecondary institutions not included in the study, and also for state policymakers. Researchers will also produce peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project will take place at 9 postsecondary institutions located across Texas. Seven of the institutions are 2-year institutions, and 2 are 4-year institutions. Six of the institutions include more than one campus.

Sample: Study participants will include about 2,325 incoming college students during the 2016-17 school year. All students in the sample will be first-time undergraduate students who score below the college readiness threshold on the TSIA placement exam and whose scores are within approximately 0.2 standard deviations of the TSIA's college-readiness threshold. Institutions in the sample serve a student population that is, on average, 46 percent Hispanic, 18 percent African American, and 25 percent White or Asian.

Intervention:A 2012 change to Texas state law required postsecondary institutions to develop "accelerated pathways" through developmental education. This project evaluates a specific educational practice known as "corequisites" in which students who score close to (but below) the TSIA college-readiness threshold are placed directly into college-level English courses with concurrent developmental education support. The corequisite developmental education supports for such students vary across institutions, and include tutoring, concurrent developmental education courses requiring 1 to 3 credit hours of participation per semester, and extended class time for the college-level course.  In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed HB 2223, which requires institutions in Texas to significantly scale corequisites so that 75% of students testing at the developmental education level of the TSIA are enrolled in a corequisite model by Fall 2020.  To assess the efficacy of corequisite models for students at lower levels of college-readiness as required by HB 2223, the research team will evaluate two models implemented for a fall 2018 cohort of students with lower levels of college readiness than previous cohorts.

Research Design and Methods:The partnership will employ a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to assess whether a corequisite models can significantly increase the probability of near-college-ready students completing a college-level English course, succeeding in subsequent credit-bearing courses, and completing a degree. During the orientation process, when students are enrolling for courses, researchers will identify students eligible for the corequisite intervention based on performance on the TSIA and information provided to them by the institutions. This group of students will be randomly divided into the treatment and control conditions. Treatment group students will be routed to a college-level English course along with their institution’s corequisite support course. Control group students will be assigned to non-college level English courses. Treatment and control group students will be followed for up to three years following random assignment. Comparisons of their outcomes will be used to draw inferences about the impact of the corequisite intervention.

Control Condition: The project team will assign control group members to their institution's standard course placement for students with their placement score and other relevant attributes.

Key Measures: Students’ scores on the TSIA writing component will serve as the key placement measures . The group eligible for random assignment will be identified by the institutions based on this score which will also be used as a covariate in the statistical analyses. Researchers will draw on THECB administrative data to measure student participation in different course options: a) enrollment in a college-level course; b) corequisite enrollment combining a college-level course with concurrent support (e.g. a non-course-based option or a developmental course rated at 1 to 3 credit hours per semester); and c) enrollment in the highest level of developmental education. Key intermediate outcomes will include enrollment in a first college-level course, college-level credits completed in the first semester, passing a college-level course in the remediated subject, and enrollment in a semester following random assignment. Long term-outcomes will include persistence for additional semesters, total college credits accumulated, and degree completion or transfer. Other covariates to be used in the statistical analyses include demographic characteristics such as gender, age, and ethnicity.

Data Analytic Strategy: To measure the treatment impact, researchers will estimate a linear regression model including the treatment indicator and a vector of baseline covariates that will be used to establish baseline equivalency. Researchers will include the baseline covariates to improve the precision of the treatment effect estimates.

Related IES Projects: Designing a RCT Experiment to Test the Impact of Innovative Interventions and Policies for Postsecondary Developmental Education: A RAND—TX Higher Education Coordinating Board Research Partnership (R305H130026) and Continuous Improvement Research to Support the Implementation of a Statewide Reform to Postsecondary Developmental Education—A RAND-THECB Research Partnership (R305H150069)